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EU Leaders Agree to Cut Emissions 55 Percent by 2030

EU Leaders Agree to Cut Emissions 55 Percent by 2030
The coal-fired Belchatow Power Station is seen on November 29, 2018 in Rogowiec, Poland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

European Union leaders reached an eleventh-hour agreement Friday to reduce the bloc's collective greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent of 1990 levels by 2030.

The deal, hashed out over a negotiation all-nighter, managed to reconcile differences between wealthier Western European countries and Eastern European countries such as Poland that are still heavily dependent on coal, The New York Times reported.

"Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change," European Council President Charles Michel tweeted Friday morning, announcing the news.


The deal comes after the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, drafted a law in March that would make the 27-country bloc carbon neutral by 2050. Activists like Greta Thunberg criticized the plan for setting a benchmark so far in the future. While Thunberg also thought 2030 was too far of a target, analysts told The New York Times that Friday's deal makes the EU's 2050 target more credible.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen championed the new deal.

"Today's agreement puts us on a clear path to climate neutrality in 2050," The Guardian reported her saying. The agreement was also reached in time for von der Leyen to announce it at a virtual UN climate meeting Saturday, The New York Times reported.

The deal came after the bloc failed to agree to a less-ambitious 40 percent emissions reduction target in October. Two key factors bridged the gap between coal-dependent members and the rest.

  1. The deal was reached after the EU agreed on a $2.2 trillion budget Thursday evening that includes funds for transitioning away from fossil fuels.
  2. The negotiators agreed to make the target a collective one so that each country will not be held to the same standards, and countries with more diverse energy sources can compensate for slower transitions from coal-dependent states.

"We have an agreement which on the one hand allows us to realize the E.U. target, and on the other creates conditions for a just transition of the Polish economy and the energy sector," Polish minister of climate and environment Michal Kurtyka told The New York Times.

The deal will also focus on accelerating the transition to electric vehicles and mandate an investment of $420 billion a year this decade for decarbonizing the energy sector, Reuters reported.

The deal will now need to be approved by the European Parliament, which supports a more ambitious emissions reduction of 60 percent by 2030.

"It is important not to be fooled into thinking that a net target of 55 percent is sufficient," Jytte Guteland, the parliament member taking the lead on climate legislation, tweeted 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."

The Guardian reported that the new commitment means that the EU now has one of the leading climate plans of any major economy. Still, several activists agreed with Guteland that the deal did not go far enough.

"Governments will no doubt call it historic, but the evidence shows this deal is only a small improvement on the emissions 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," Greenpeace EU policy advisor Sebastian Mang told The Guardian.

Colin Roche, Friends of the Earth Europe climate justice coordinator, also said the EU should be more ambitious in its goals in order to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement.

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

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