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What are the EU climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050?

Climate Finance

We are going through the already known European Union climate objectives for 2030 (with the Fit for 55 package) and 2050 (carbon neutral economy), as well as the expected announcements regarding the 2040 EU climate goals.

What are the EU climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050?

Climate change is the greatest collective challenge of our generation. And tackling it requires a global, synchronized effort from those capable of eliciting that level of coordination: our governments and international institutions. 

In 2015, 196 countries committed to shared climate targets decided in Paris: the Paris Agreement. They pledged to limit global warming to less than 2°C above the benchmark pre-industrial temperature levels. All European member states were part of the signatories. 

As a follow up in 2020, the European Commission formulated the European Green Deal - a set of policies aiming at bringing carbon emissions in the European Union (EU) to net zero levels (this is what we call climate neutrality) by 2050. 

To become carbon neutral by 2050, the EU has set milestones with different time horizons. One set of objectives to be reached by 2030 is known as “Fit for 55”. It is a legislative package aiming to reduce EU emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels. The details of the second milestone, the one with a 2040 horizon, are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. It is anticipated that regulators will advocate for a 90% reduction in emissions by 2040.

  • What is the EU climate strategy for 2030? 
  • What are the European climate goals for 2050?
  • What are the EU climate goals for 2040?

What is the EU climate strategy for 2030?

What is the Fit for 55 package?

Fit for 55 is a package of 12 legislative proposals published by the European Commission in 2021. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The package aims to ensure that the EU's climate actions are on track to meet the predetermined climate goals. It also discusses innovation and competitiveness: Regulators juggle between the imperative to significantly reduce emissions, while ensuring that the EU economy is not detrimentally hurt in the short term.

What is the Fit for 55 strategy?

What is the Social Climate Fund?

The Fit for 55 package includes the “Social climate Fund” - it aims at financially helping out the most vulnerable households, micro-enterprises and transport users. In practice, it is an increase of the EU budget by €65 billion “fed by external assigned revenues”, offering direct income support. These households are the most vulnerable to the economic shifts that an ambitious climate policy will generate.

Fit for 55 and carbon markets

The package has also introduced important amendments in the European Union Emissions Trading (EU ETS) scheme guidelines. As per the European Commission’s website, “The Fit for 55 package aimed to reform the EU ETS by making it more ambitious. ” Here is a recap of the changes: 

  • emissions from maritime transport to be covered by the EU ETS
  • reducing European Union Allowances (EUAs) at a faster pace
  • a gradual phasing-out of free allowances for some sectors
  • increase of funding for the modernisation fund and the innovation fund
  • revision of the market stability reserve, the mechanism helping regulators balance the gap between the demand and supply volumes.

What are some other targets of Fit for 55?

When it comes to the sectors not covered by the EU ETS, it obliges member states to set and commit to carbon emissions targets. This has been the case for road and domestic maritime transport, buildings, agriculture, waste, and small industries. The end goal has been set to reduce the CO2 released by those sectors by 40% compared to 2005 levels (vs. a reduction of 29% targeted before Fit for 55).

What is the Energy Union? What are the 4 pillars of the Energy Union?

The Energy Union is a European Commission body that is in charge of making sure that the EU is on track to reach its 2030 climate targets. It has planning, reporting and monitoring obligations. It is charge of any regulations linked to the following areas: 

  • decarbonization 
  • energy security (stable, reliable energy supply)
  • energy efficiency (minimize waste when consuming energy)
  • internal energy market 
  • research, innovation and competitiveness

What are the European climate goals for 2050?

What is the European Green Deal?

The European Green deal drafts the plan on how to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050. This means that CO2 emissions should be drastically reduced and the last remaining volumes released should be removed or offset - the economy should have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050.

What is the European Climate Law?

What was discussed in the European Green deal were “political commitments” - it all became legally binding through the EU climate law. The European Parliament states that “It gives European citizens and businesses the legal certainty and predictability they need to plan for the transition for a carbon neutral economy. ”

EU-wide objectives and National objectives

There are union-wide objectives and climate targets, but every member state has to independently act in order to make its contribution. Every country should have its own “National long-term strategy”, outlining what it would do to reach the common european goals. Every member state is expected to come up with a plan on how to tackle the pillars of the Energy Union discussed above. Then the EU commission makes an assessment of the efficacy of those plans and monitors whether they are implemented accordingly.

The National Objectives are not on track

In December 2023, the commission issued a report on the National plans, stating that the targets are not sufficient. The current strategies would only bring a reduction of greenhouse gasses of 51% by 2030 (instead of the 55% target), and that we would be able to only reach 38.6-39.3% of renewables in the energy mix by 2030 (instead of the 42.5% target).

What are the EU climate goals for 2040?

An important milestone to be announced

As seen above, the EU knows where it needs to by 2030 (GHG gasses down by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels) and in 2050 (carbon neutral). Where are we going by 2040? This will be announced in the weeks to come. What is very important is whether we will get an absolute or a “net” target. 

  • An absolute target is a reduction goal where there is a clear aim to decrease emissions by a specified amount. “Let’s reduce carbon emissions by X.”
  • A net target involves achieving a balance between emissions produced and emissions removed or offset. This allows for the possibility of compensating for emissions through activities like carbon removal projects or carbon capture technologies, rather than strictly reducing emissions at the source.

When will the 2040 EU climate goals be announced?

A communication by the European Commission will be released on February 6th. This will set the stage for further discussions on the ambition of the climate targets ahead of the European Parliament elections and the final passing of legally binding documentation next year.

What we’ve heard so far

Reuters has shared predictions that the February 6th announcements will be a reduction of 90% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 (before reaching the 100% in 2050). Such rumors engendered a prompt reaction by many politicians like representatives of Denmark, Poland and Bulgaria having expressed that they are supportive of a 90% target. On the other hand, Hungary’s state secretary has considered such a climate objective “unrealistic”.

Sources:

The European Commission, 2023. The European Climate Law

The European Commission, 2023. The European Green Deal

The European Commission, 2023. EU wide assessment of the draft updated National Energy and Climate Plans

The European Council, 2023. Fit for 55

The European Council, 2023. Fit for 55: reform of the EU emissions trading system

The European Council, 2023. Energy Union

Reuters, 2024. EU Commission to back 90% emissions cut for 2040 climate target - sources

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