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World News

European Parliament cements position on climate change before haggling by member states

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers have backed a plan to cut greenhouse gases by 60% from 1990 levels by 2030, hoping member states will not try to water the target down during upcoming negotiations.

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows European Council President Charles Michel addressing an extraordinary plenary session of the EU Parliament following an EU leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Results of the vote released on Thursday confirm their preliminary votes earlier this week on a landmark law to make the EU’s climate targets legally binding.

The law, which contains the new EU emissions-cutting goal for 2030, passed by a large majority of 231 votes.

Parliament must now agree the final law with the EU’s 27 member countries, only a few of whom have said they would support a 60% emissions-cutting target. Lawmakers want to avoid countries whittling it away to below the level of emissions cuts proposed by the EU executive of at least 55%.

The EU’s current 2030 target is a 40% emissions cut.

Parliament also supported a proposal to launch an independent scientific council to advise on climate policy - a system already in place in Britain and Sweden - and a carbon budget, setting out the emissions the EU could produce without scuppering its climate commitments.

With climate-related impacts such as more intense heatwaves and wildfires already felt across Europe, and thousands of young people taking to the streets last month to demand tougher action, the EU is under pressure to ramp up its climate policies.

Groups representing investors with 62 trillion euros in assets under management, plus hundreds of businesses and NGOs on Thursday wrote to EU leaders urging them to agree an emissions-cutting target of at least 55% for 2030.

Scientists say this target, which has been proposed by the European Commission, is the minimum effort needed to give the EU a realistic shot at becoming climate neutral by 2050. The Commission wants the new 2030 goal finalised by the end of the year.

However, the climate law will require compromise from member countries. Wealthier states with large renewable energy resources are pushing for deeper emissions cuts, but coal-heavy countries including Poland and Czech Republic fear the economic fallout of tougher targets.

Given its political sensitivity, heads of government will likely decide their position on the 2030 target by unanimity, meaning one country could block it.

Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Marine Strauss and Philippa Fletcher

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