Wednesday 21 October, 2020

EU leaders divided over new climate goals for 2030

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa, left, is welcomed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP)

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa, left, is welcomed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP)

European Union leaders remain divided about a more ambitious target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and will not reach an agreement at their summit starting Thursday.

According to a draft of the meeting's findings seen by The Associated Press, leaders will at this summit only start discussing the proposal to reduce emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, as put forward by the EU's executive Commission.

The goal is to reach an agreement in December ahead of the adoption of the first ever European climate law.

In proposing a reduction target of at least 55 per cent by 2030 compared with the current target of 40 per cent, EU commission President Ursula von der Leyen predicted in September that the new target would be "too much for some and not enough for others."

Supported by Germany, Von der Leyen's revised target needs to be endorsed by the 27 EU countrie to make it legally binding.

On Wednesday, a group of 11 countries including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden embraced her ambition in a joint statement published ahead of the summit in Brussels.

"Let us, as a Union, deliver a strong and credible response to the climate crisis and increase our 2030 climate target to at least 55 per cent, leading to climate neutrality by 2050," they said in the statement.

But officials said there is no agreement across the bloc.

While the European Parliament pushes for an even greater 60 per cent reduction in emissions, some eastern EU countries that depends on coal for much of their energy needs are less enthusiastic.

They worry about the social, environmental and economic costs of the transition to a greener economy. Poland last year did not commit to the EU's 2050 climate neutrality goal and is asking for more details about the measures.

Von der Leyen has said she wants 37 per cent of the 750 billion euros in the coronavirus recovery fund to be given to EU countries to spend on environmental objectives, while 30 per cent of the bloc's regular budget should be used to tackling climate change.

World leaders agreed five years ago in Paris to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F) by the end of the century.

Scientists say countries will miss both of those goals by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to begin cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are due to submit updated climate targets by the end of the year. 

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