The EU have recently agreed upon a new climate target for 2030. In this target, the EU Parliament and member states have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas levels to those 55% lower than in 1990. However, this is a clear compromise with some business groups saying that this will put too much pressure on businesses, financially and logistically, and Green politicians saying that such a goal falls short of meeting the EU’s commitments on the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Compromise from conflict
The EU set the previous target for 2030 greenhouse gas reduction at 40% of 1990 levels. This turned out to be too low to meet the targets outlined in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. While the EU have recognised this, with the European Commission proposing a raising of this target in 2020, progress has been stunted by entrenched opposing views. In the scientific world, the consensus is that there must be a 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to 1990 levels by 2030 climate change is to be limited to 1.5o Celsius. However, in the EU, only an increase to 55% could be agreed upon.
Those representing industry have cast their doubts on the likelihood of achieving any raised greenhouse gas reduction targets. The Federation of German Industries has called the 55% goal ‘extremely ambitious’. In addition, the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) has also sounded out its frustration in relation to a stricter target. In the past, the WKO have claimed that a 55% reduction in greenhouse gasses is too much. The Secretary General of the WKO, Karlheinz Kopf, sees an increase in the target as ‘highly problematic’. According to Kopf it would be damaging to Austria’s economic competitiveness. Amongst other reasons, the WKO have claimed it will cost billions of Euros to reach such an improved reduction target.
Green shoots of change
As industry and their vested interests put the brakes on any further tightening of emissions, it is clear that, from a scientific point of view, more needs to be done. However, there are some green shoots that can be seen from select parts of the business and political worlds.
While many of the associations representing industry have spoken up against stricter emissions targets, some of their members differ. Five of the WKO’s constituent businesses, including IKEA , believe the target is currently too low. They have called for a raising of the target to 65%, as supported by scientists. If more businesses call for stricter targets, then the transition to renewable energy and non-polluting production methods may hasten. Cumulatively, this will help improve situation further.
In one of the EU’s power centres, the EU Parliament, the outlook is very different to those of industrial organisations. From the MEPs, there is considerable support for a 60% reduction by 2030. The Parliament’s Greens particularly took issue with the EU Commission’s 2020 proposal of a 55% reduction by 2030. They accused the Commission of undercutting its targets by calculating the amount of CO2 that forests, plants and the soil store and sequester in the reduction total. In real terms, this would mean a reduction in greenhouse gasses of 52.8% instead of 55%. If this were the case, it would barely suffice in sticking to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, claimed the Greens. The Greens thus wanted a stricter criteria for calculating the reduction in CO2, so as to not water down the actual target. However, they failed in arguing for this.
Unfortunately, this is the current state of climate protection in the EU, making negotiations on the issue more fraught. The cautious approach that many industrial organisations are taking to change is holding back the overall fight against climate change. However, the tide is slowly turning, with the entrenched resistance of those taking a cautious approach moving away from the mainstream viewpoint. The political pressure is there for change, but time is running out to win over those with ingrained views, so that the EU can remain within the parameters of Paris Climate Change Agreement.