EU plans to be climate neutral by 2050

Announcements makes EU first major economic bloc to declare environmental intentions

Targets can be met through strong development of renewable and nuclear energy to drive large-scale electrification of the EU’s energy systems, the European Commission said. Photograph: iStock

Targets can be met through strong development of renewable and nuclear energy to drive large-scale electrification of the EU’s energy systems, the European Commission said. Photograph: iStock

 

Europe will be climate neutral by 2050, the European Commission has pledged.

Although largely an aspirational target, which will not affect current national emissions commitments, the announcement means the EU is the first major economic bloc to declare its intention to be climate neutral by the middle of the century. It also, the commission says, will provide important leadership in the Paris climate process.

The strategy paper unveiled by the commission in Brussels on Wednesday charts a course to achieving the target through work in all policy areas to the Paris agreement target of keeping global temperature increases “well below” 2°C and in pursuit of the 1.5°C target.

Solutions

The paper speaks of investing in realistic technological solutions, empowering citizens, and aligning action in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research – while ensuring social fairness for a just transition.

The paper says targets can be met through strong development of renewable and nuclear energy to drive large-scale electrification of the EU’s energy systems which currently accounts for 75 per cent of its cent of its greenhouse gas emissions. Power generation should be fully decarbonised by 2050 when 80 per cent of the union’s electricity needs will be met by renewable, the strategy says.

Agriculture, the largest greenhouse source of non-CO2 emissions and likely to increase its relative share of harmful emissions, can see its emissions reduced, the commission argues, through a combination of practices and technologies such as improved livestock, and fertiliser and manure management. It has also a role to play in sustainable biomass production.

The target, however, is insufficiently ambitious say climate activists. Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, argues that although “a proposal to go for net zero emissions by 2050 marks a dramatic change in direction . . . this commitment alone would not be enough to pull us back from the brink of the climate breakdown”.

“As a matter of urgency, the EU needs to massively increase the 2030 target. It is the short term emission cuts that will make or break our response to climate change.”

Rise

To have a good chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C, while avoiding heavy reliance on unproven carbon removal techniques, he argues, the EU would need to fully decarbonise already by 2040 and significantly increase its 2030 climate target, even beyond the 55 per cent reduction some member states and the European Parliament are calling for.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete said “today, we are stepping up our efforts as we propose a strategy for Europe to become the world’s first major economy to go climate neutral by 2050.

“Going climate neutral is necessary, possible and in Europe’s interest. It is necessary to meet the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. It is possible with current technologies and those close to deployment. And it is in Europe’s interest to stop spending on fossil fuel imports and invest in meaningful improvements to the daily lives of all Europeans.”

He pledged that the commission will ensure no European region will be left behind and that the EU will support those more impacted by this transition, like those in coal mining and extraction, with funding for retraining and investment in alternative industries.