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18 Jul 2019, 13:36
Julian Wettengel

EU must raise 2030 emissions reduction goal to go climate neutral by 2050 – researchers

German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)

If the European Union goes commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 – as currently debated – it must also raise its 2030 emissions target, Oliver Geden and Felix Schenuit says in a paper for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). The authors say that the new head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has said she wants to raise the 2030 target from 40 to at least 50 percent emissions reduction, but it is "questionable" whether European leaders would agree to this. Yet, sticking with the current target “would harm the EU’s credibility on climate policy” and entail an unrealistically dramatic hike in ambition after that date, the researchers say. Climate neutrality by 2050 is only possible if countries like Germany increase their national targets and immediately adopt forceful measures to meet them. The paper explains EU decision-making processes and highlights key areas of contention between the member states, such as different net-zero target years for different countries. If some states were allowed to take longer to meet the goal, others would have to be net-negative by 2050. Geden and Schenuit also highlight the risk of the UK leaving joint EU climate commitments after Brexit: As things stand, because the UK is cutting emissions faster than average, the remaining member states must only achieve a 37 percent cut to reach the current 2030 target of 40 percent.

Chancellor Angela Merkel put the goal of climate neutrality on the German agenda at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in May and her government joined other EU states such as France in signing a pledge to support the goal on a EU level. However, opposition by eastern European states has so far prevented the EU from agreeing on climate neutrality by 2050. The net-zero target demands enormous efforts across all sectors of the economy, but particularly industry, where new processes must be developed for decarbonisation.

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