The energy sector in Europe has been keenly awaiting the release of a long-term climate strategy document from the European Union, due to be released in November. This week a draft of the strategy has been leaked to the media, and it has environmental campaigners furious.
The strategy was expected to contain a headline goal of getting the EU to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. Under such a scenario, any carbon emissions in the EU would be offset by actions elsewhere in the globe to lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, such as planting forests or using carbon capture and storage technology to trap carbon underground.
However in the draft strategy, the net zero goal is presented as just one of three possible options for the EU’s long-term climate target. The other two options are an 80% emission reduction by 2050 or reaching net zero emissions by 2070. The strategy will be published by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch. It would need to be considered by the European parliament and EU national governments.
Worryingly for climate campaigners, the net zero by 2050 option is presented as the most ambitious of the three. The EU rarely chooses the most ambitious of scenarios presented in such strategy documents, which are usually seen as pointing toward the middle option.
The timing of the leak comes just as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report today finding that the world is headed for a dangerous temperature rise of 1.5°C by 2030 if dramatic action isn’t taken. This is far earlier than previously thought…..
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had come out publicly against the idea of raising the 2030 target, after significant pressure from German industry association BDI. It is thought that German pressure forced the Commission to shelve the plan.
Merkel’s increasing role as a spoiler for EU climate ambition is reportedly causing friction between her and her environment minister Svenja Schulze, who said today the IPCC report shows “we must not waste any more time on climate protection”.
Though the 45% target raise had never been officially proposed, EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said this summer that the EU is already on track to reduce emissions by 45%, so it might as well adopt it as formal policy. This, he said, would send a signal to the international community that the EU is serious about climate change.
The timing of the 2050 strategy was also supposed to send such a signal to the international community, ahead of the next UN climate summit in Poland in December.
But with the 2030 target raise now apparently off the table, and the EU’s long-term 2050 strategy watered down, many are now concerned the EU will be coming to the summit without the ability to pressure other parts of the world into more ambitious action.