EU Leaders Agree on 55% Emissions Reduction Target, But Activist Groups Warn It Is Not Enough

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  • The European Council's President, Charles Michel, describes Europe as "the leader in the fight against climate change."
  • The EU's adoption of the target comes ahead of a Climate Ambition Summit this weekend.

European Union leaders have agreed on a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by the year 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The previous target had been a reduction of at least 40% by 2030.

The European Council's President, Charles Michel, confirmed the news via Twitter on Friday morning, describing Europe as "the leader in the fight against climate change." The new target was reached at a summit taking place in Brussels, Belgium.

Ursula von der Leyen, who is president of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said the target "puts us on a clear path towards climate neutrality in 2050."

The EU's adoption of the 55% target comes ahead of a Climate Ambition Summit this weekend which will be co-hosted by the United Nations, the U.K. and France, in partnership with Italy and Chile.

Last week the U.K. government said it would target an emissions cut of at least 68% by the year 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The U.K. left the EU in January 2020.

The EU's revised 2030 goal now requires a green light from the European Parliament, a directly elected law-making body that has called for a 60% emissions cut by the end of this decade. 

Work to be done?

Among those reacting to the news was Jytte Guteland, an MEP and the European Parliament's rapporteur on the European Climate Law.

"It is important not to be fooled into thinking that a net target of 55 percent is sufficient," Guteland said via Twitter on Friday. "I have a strong mandate from the elected representatives in the European Parliament to push for more climate ambition. I intend to do that when we meet and negotiate."

Elsewhere, the European unit of Greenpeace said the deal exposed "a reluctance by governments to follow the science and tackle the root causes of the climate emergency."

Sebastian Mang, Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser, said the evidence showed that the deal was "only a small improvement on the emission cuts the EU is already expected to achieve."

"It shows that political convenience takes precedence over climate science, and that most politicians are still afraid to take on big polluters," he added.

Colin Roche, climate justice coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said the new goal was "still a far cry from the victory the climate needs."

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change, a landmark deal which aims to keep global warming "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and "pursue efforts" to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Our leaders must go further to deliver Europe's fair share of global action to cut carbon and live up to the agreement they made in Paris five years ago," Friends of the Earth Europe's Roche said.

"Meanwhile if this new target is to be meaningful, planned new EU infrastructure spending must cut out all fossil fuels now."

Correction: The text of this story has been updated to remove an incorrect temperature conversion.

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