'European Green Deal' targets 55% 2030 emissions reduction

Out-Law News | 16 Sep 2020 | 3:39 pm | 2 min. read

The European Commission will seek to increase the bloc's emissions reduction target from 40% to "at least 55%" of 1990 levels, president Ursula von der Leyen has announced.

Giving her first 'state of the union' address to the European parliament, the Commission president described the tougher goal as "ambitious, achievable and beneficial for Europe".

The Commission will propose a series of measures to achieve the tougher target including boosting renewable energy generation, improved energy efficiency and reforming energy taxation and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), von der Leyen said. It also intends to revise all existing climate and energy legislation by next summer, in line with the new target.

"I recognise that this increase from 40 to 55 is too much for some, and not enough for others, but our impact assessment clearly shows that our economy and industry can manage this," she said.

"We have already shown we can do it. While emissions dropped 25% since 1990, our economy grew by more than 60%. The difference is we now have more technology, more expertise and more investment, and we are already embarking towards a circular economy with carbon neutral production," she said.

Rice Paul

Paul Rice

Partner, Head of Climate Change Advisory

It is clear that the European Commission sees this as the right time to drive a 'green recovery' across all sectors of the economy, believing that the overall cost of inaction will be significantly higher.

The Commission will allocate 37% of its €750 billion 'NextGenerationEU' Covid-19 recovery funding stream to "our European Green Deal objectives", von der Leyen said, including investment in "lighthouse" hydrogen generation and energy efficient construction projects and one million electric vehicle charging points. The Commission will also set a new target to raise 30% of the money for the NextGenerationEU scheme through green bonds.

A leaked EU policy document obtained by EURACTIV warned of the "significant investment challenge" associated with the new goal, as well as highlighting the need for a "fair transition" for those member states which remain particularly reliant on energy intensive industries and fossil fuels.

Energy and infrastructure law expert Wojciech Wrochna of Kochański & Partners said that these member states would play an influential role in the future debate.

"The reduction targets discussed currently in Brussels are difficult to be met by Poland, which is heavily coal dependent," he said.

"If the targets are very high as currently proposed, and binding at the level of member states and not only at the EU level, we can assume that central European countries can invoke a legal basis as an argument to justify that such decision should be taken unanimously. Any requirement for a unanimous decision at the European Council can lead to a prolonged debate, and in a worst case scenario can lead to delays and challenging of the decision before EU courts," he said.

Wojciech Wrochna

Partner, Kochanski & Partners

Poland and other central European countries, with substantial support of EU money, can become leaders in energy transition as their economies will require massive investment in clean energy generation.

"On the other hand, Poland is now reshaping its approach to its energy policy. If the decision is internally taken to move towards a low emission economy, Poland and other central European countries, with substantial support of EU money, can become leaders in energy transition as their economies will require massive investment in clean energy generation," he said.

Energy and climate change expert Paul Rice of Pinsent Masons said that the UK, which is also targeting 'net-zero' emissions by 2050, would be watching the debate with interest.

"It is clear that the European Commission sees this as the right time to drive a 'green recovery' across all sectors of the economy, believing that the overall cost of inaction will be significantly higher," he said. "Also, it sees this as a point of competitive advantage for EU companies."

"Interestingly, in the European parliament, there are factions pushing for an even higher emissions reduction target and the 55% reduction has been widely supported. However, they will likely see challenges from EU countries where energy intensive industries feature heavily. But the proposals make clear the scale of the Commission's ambition and it seems likely that the sort of policies covered in the earlier leaked document will form part of the EU's plan to use its coronavirus recovery budget to drive a sustainable and 'climate neutral' economy," he said.

"It will be interesting to see the reaction of the UK government and whether carbon reduction becomes a true cornerstone of the UK's recovery plan, as raised by the Committee on Climate Change in its most recent progress report to the UK parliament," he said.