24 Aug 2023, 13:16
Julian Wettengel

EU debate on post-2030 climate efforts should focus on proven policies, not ambitions – researchers


The European Union should focus on strengthening existing policy instruments when charting the course for climate action in the years after 2030, write researchers Brigitte Knopf and Oliver Geden in an op-ed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The EU should avoid a politicised debate about the level of the soon-to-be-decided 2040 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and its budget of remaining emissions for 2030-2050, the researchers said. “Even if it seems obvious in the European election year 2024: The political debate on the design of EU climate policy should not focus on the target level for 2040, as long as this is ambitious enough to be able to achieve climate neutrality by 2050,” they write. Knopf, who is secretary general of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), and Geden, a senior fellow at German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), emphasise that the coming years present “arguably the most challenging phase of EU climate policy to date.” The priority for national and EU policy-makers should be to further develop and strengthen existing mechanisms and policy instruments like the emissions trading systems and “build public support for an ambitious climate policy,” they say. They also warned that focusing the debate on a remaining emissions budget harboured many pitfalls. Questions over what would be a fair contribution by the EU to global climate efforts, such as whether historical emissions should be taken into account, make for a difficult and likely contentious debate.   

Setting an emissions reduction target for 2040 is the starting point for a fresh EU climate legislation overhaul. European policymakers have called it “the next major policy the EU is looking at after the elections” on 6-9 June 2024. The European Commission is currently preparing the proposal for a 2040 climate target as an interim step towards reaching the bloc’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The EU Climate Law requires the Commission to make its proposal – including a greenhouse gas budget for the years 2030-2050 – at the latest within six months of the first global stocktake carried out under the Paris Agreement. This process is set to be carried out by the time the UN climate change conference COP28 takes place from the end of November in Dubai. This means a proposal would be presented ahead of the EU elections. The European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change recently proposed to set the emissions reduction target at 90–95% by 2040, relative to 1990.

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