EU Announces 2030 Climate Change Targets

Sable Liggera '17 Assistant News Editor 

Last week, the European Union announced its agreement on a 2030 climate and energy package. They describe it as one of the world’s most ambitious climate change targets. Included within it are goals to cut carbon emissions by members of the EU by 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels as well as increase renewable energy production to 27% per member. The package also included a non-binding target to reduce overall energy demands by at least 27% by 2030.

Some, such as environmental NGOs, question the EU’s contention that the package is “ambitious.”

A statement by OXFAM International claims that the EU is “set[ting] the floor [and] not the ceiling of European [climate change] action.” The general consensus seems to be, among prominent environmental groups such as GreenPeace and Friends of the Earth, that the cut in carbon emissions should have been as high as 60%, the increase in renewable energies as high as 45%, and the energy savings target, not only as high as 50%, but also binding, all in line with recommendations by latest science.

Even global businesses such as Coca Cola, Unilever, and Philips had previously called for stricter measures than those proposed by the EU, such as 30% renewable mix of energy, at least 30% energy savings and potential for a 50% decrease in carbon emissions.

According to Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, “For the U.N. climate change conference to be a success next year in Paris, Europe needs to set itself bold targets on greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency that are an example to the rest of the world.”

The U.N. climate change conference he references is a meeting all members of the organization to decide on a “legally binding and universal agreement on climate.” As the EU bloc is a major part of the United Nations, its goals, especially as the first major-economy to set post-2020 emissions targets, will be a standard by which the United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, will measure.

However, the EU, despite protest over its “lax” targets, still faced considerable protest and threats of vetoes from its member-states. Poland, for example, was one of such states which initially vehemently protested the EU’s target goals as too ambitious for one main reason; almost 90% of Poland’s electricity is produced via coal combustion and the coal industry is still a vital part of the Polish economy. While Van Rompuy, the current president of the EU, promised aid to countries that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels and still transitioning onto other types of fuel, such as Poland, such nations within the EU still gave strong opposition about the “pace of change.”

Such a stance is familiar in other countries, such as the United States and China, which are both heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

Still, as GreenPeace EU managing director Mahi Sideridou put it, “The global fight against climate change needs radical shock treatment… [not] smelling salts.”