One year on from EU climate law, Brussels defends emissions plan


FILE PHOTO: European Commissioner for European Green Deal Frans Timmermans speaks during a media conference on a new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 24, 2021. Olivier Matthys

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union plans to cut emissions at least 55% this decade are in line with science and globally agreed climate targets, the bloc's green policy chief said on Thursday, as lawmakers and member states continue to wrangle over the goal.

To get on track to become climate neutral by 2030, Europe needs to slash emissions this decade faster than previously planned - although exactly how much faster is still up for debate.

Last March, the EU's executive Commission proposed a law to make the bloc's climate change goals irreversible. One year on, member countries and the European Parliament, which must both approve the law, are still struggling to agree on its contents.

The sticking point is a target to cut emissions this decade. The Commission and EU member states say the bloc should cut its net emissions at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.

Lawmakers are holding out for a 60% cut. They point to the United Nations' conclusion that global emissions must fall 7.6% each year this decade to align with globally agreed climate goals.

"I think we're taking really our fair share with minus 55," EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans told lawmakers on Thursday, noting the EU has already slashed its emissions since 1990, while emissions in economies such as China and India increased.

The 55% target "is in line with typical global scenarios achieving 1.5C pathways, and even outperforming them by 2050," he said, referring to the Paris Agreement target to cap warming at 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Green lawmakers on Thursday refused to drop their call for a tougher goal, releasing a study by consultancy Cambridge Econometrics saying the EU could afford a 60% emissions cut if it ramped up its climate policies - including by banning new combustion engine car sales by 2030 and expanding renewable subsidies.

Lawmakers and EU countries meet on March 12 to continue negotiating, with a final agreement on the climate law due by end-June.

"The world is really watching this, whether we can pull this off," Timmermans said.

(This story corrects 2030 to 2050 in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by David Evans)

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