Environment ministers from Germany and several other EU states called for the bloc to deepen the EU’s 2030 goals in response to the Paris Agreement, but plenty of their counterparts said the current targets were adequate.
EU environment ministers held a webstreamed debate in the EU Council on Friday on whether to revisit the bloc’s goals in the wake of December’s UN climate summit, with the latest negotiations acting as a guide for EU leaders who will decide whether to adjust the goals when they meet on Mar. 17-18.
Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, and Portugal made clear calls for more ambition now, while Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, and Latvia explicitly rejected such a move.
The remarks are the clearest sign yet that some nations are keen to deepen the EU’s 2030 goal, agreed in 2014, to cut emissions by at least 40% under 1990 levels.
The prospects for a more ambitious target have so far been slim. Adjustment of the headline 2030 climate and energy goals would require unanimity among all EU member states though some observers have suggested the bloc could demonstrate more ambition in other ways that might only require a majority of member states to agree.
The ministers were responding to a European Commission paper recommending that the EU should focus on meeting its current goals until a worldwide stocktake of climate pledges in 2018, which disappointed environmental campaigners who say the target falls short of globally-agreed commitments.
“It may have surprised the Commission, but country after country has come out in support of stronger European efforts to tackle climate change. This should reboot Europe’s climate ambition. It’s a clear signal the Commission cannot ignore,” said Bram Claeys of environmental campaigners Greenpeace.
Fellow campaigners Sandbag pointed out that the EU is set to massively outperform its 2020 climate goals, enabling the bloc to step up its ambition at minimal extra cost by allowing spare non-ETS governmental allowances (AEAs) to expire at the end of the decade and by cancelling a significant portion of ETS allowances in the MSR.
Many of the ministers’ interventions were vague. Greenpeace also included Belgium as one of the group calling for more ambition now and said ministers from the UK, France, Sweden, Greece and Denmark had also asked that the EU’s efforts be stepped up.
Netherlands environment minister Sharon Dijksma, who chaired the meeting as her country holds the EU presidency, did not refer to the apparent split in ambition among the ministers in her press conference following the meeting.
She said the Dutch presidency sees “a well-working EU ETS as the needed game-changer that can accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement”, adding that her government strives to have the system eventually link with nations outside the EU.
She added that an informal April meeting of EU environment and transport ministers would include addressing emissions from aviation and transport, two sectors that were left out of the Paris Agreement against the EU’s wishes.
Carbon Pulse has summarised the views of those with clear reference to ambition below:
MORE AMBITION NOW
Germany: State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth:
“Germany regrets that the European Commission proposal is weak on ambition … The Commission was also a ‘High Ambition Coalition’ member in Paris, we would like to know how they intend to stand by this commitment … We must ensure that we do not lead to watering down of the ambition so far, that would send the wrong signal.”
Flasbarth said he was disappointed that the Commission assessment lacked any clarity on what the “at least” part of the EU’s 2030 target means.
Germany is the EU’s economic powerhouse and the most influential member is often crucial in driving the bloc’s climate policy.
Austria: Minister Andra Rupprechter:
“We’ve got momentum from the Paris Agreement, we should keep it up … I would’ve expected more in the way of ambition. The Paris Agreement was a signal for change in climate policy and I’m missing in the oomph in this communication … We shouldn’t let ambition droop. We need to be careful but move with resolution towards a low carbon economy and put out more progressive signals, which we are missing from the Commission communication.”
Rupprechter emphasised his clear alignment with Germany.
Portugal: Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes
“This declaration should be more ambitious. We all know this is not enough for 2C. For us to achieve the ambition set for the planet, Portugal feels the EU should not hang back or hesitate in taking leadership in this process.”
Luxembourg: Minister Carole Dieschbourg
“If we are going to be credible we have to make quite clear that this is urgent. We need to raise the bar and have higher ambition in Europe. It is quite clear we have mandate to go beyond the 40% … The urgency doesn’t come out clearly enough in the Commission communication … It doesn’t really reflect the spirit of Paris … We may find that our credibility is undermined if we don’t do this.”
Dieschbourg led the EU negotiating team at the Paris talks and spoke on behalf of the EU at the summit as her country was then the holder of the rotating EU presidency.
NO MORE AMBITION NOW
Italy: Minister Gian Luca Galletti:
“This is not a time to raise issues which might be divisive, like raising ambition. The time has come to concentrate on implementation.”
The remarks are the only clear rejection of more ambition from a western EU nation.
Hungary: Deputy state secretary Martina Makai:
“The Commission assessment explicitly says ‘no increase is justified’ and Hungary agrees with this. The Paris Agreement does not justify a review of objectives in the short term. Hungary does not reject the idea in future, but at this point it is too early to speak of an increase in the level of ambition.”
Czech Republic: Minister Richard Brabec
“There is no need to start discussing about a possible increase of our target.”
“We believe that even now the EU has set itself an ambitious goal of at least 40%. This and and other targets for 2030 should not be increased.”
“We consider the 2030 target high and ambitious enough. A debate on it is only feasible after a thorough analysis.”
- Read Carbon Pulse’s analysis on why EU leaders are unlikely to budge on the 2030 goal
- Commission officials have been briefing lawmakers that the EU’s 2030 GHG target could not easily be altered to fit deeper global aspirations, despite being aware that its proposed reforms to the EU ETS won’t keep pace with current UN obligations regarding worldwide temperature limits.
- A deeper overall EU target would drastically lower the cap of the EU ETS, which regulates just under half of the bloc’s greenhouse gas output.
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org