On Friday (December 13), leaders of the European Union (EU), except Poland, reached a deal for being carbon neutral by 2050 in a summit in Brussels, meaning that the bloc’s 28 member countries must lower their carbon emissions from fossil fuel and seek alternatives to balance the remaining emissions.
The meeting in Brussels is the first summit after the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promoted the “Green Deal” (European Green Deal), a proposal aimed at transforming the EU economy and reaching climate neutrality in the middle of this century.
“Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce, the way we consume with our planet, and to make it work with our people. The old-growth model is out of date and out of touch with our planet,” Von der Leyen, the former German defence minister, spoke following the adoption of the agreement.
What is in the deal?
The goal includes proposals to slash emission to 50 per cent of 1990 levels, or even lower by 2030. According to the bloc report in 2018, emissions within the organization has significantly dropped in the last two decades. Yet, the EU emissions still contribute 9.6 per cent to the annual global carbon emission.
The deal also introduces a new circular economy action plan which describes more detail on how to manufacture eco-friendly products that can be recycled and reused. The circular economy action plan will focus on carbon-intensive sectors such as cement, textiles, and steel.
Several Eastern nations want assurance
Poland, where 80% of the country’s electricity relies on coal, opposed the plan in a lengthy debate. The country’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, announced that his side has been exempt from the 2050 deadline for carbon neutrality.
“This rule that must also be included in the legislative process, the rule that Poland would be reaching climate neutrality at its own pace,” Morawiecki said as BBC quoted, adding that Brussels has provided financial assistance to the most affected region by fossil fuel reduction.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists that Poland would have time until a summit in June 2020 to decide whether it would join the commitment to implementing the climate initiative.
There is no division of Europe into different parts, but there is a member state that still needs a bit more time,” Merkel added
Previously the Czech Republic raised its objection to the 2050 carbon neutrality. However, Prague finally agreed after the EU guaranteed that its member countries could use nuclear energy to curb emissions.
Under the deal, the EU provides a funding platform called €100bn Just Transition Mechanism, targeting the most vulnerable countries in transition to move to eco-friendly energy.
Does the deal show any progress?
As the UN climate talks in Madrid (known as COP 25) ended in disappointment, the EU achievement can be considered a decisive breakthrough.
However, green activists push for a higher emission target to 65 per cent by 2030. The plan will be adopted next summer, ahead of the 2020 Glasgow climate summit.
Timing is everything. Now EU member states have a big responsibility to agree on a much higher 2030 climate target at the European Council in June 2020,” Wendel Trio of the Climate Action Network told The Guardian.
The plan has its flaws too
Nothing is flawless in this world. The green deal is praised for focusing on workers’ protection (to anticipate job losses in the fossil fuel sector) and investment in renewable energy. Yet, the plan does not provide details on what energy mix the EU will count on, types of technologies deployed, and incentives for lowering emissions.
The rise of Green Parties across Europe may push the implementation of the deal. However, it is unlikely that Europe will implement the plant now given the stagnant growth and resistance to the policy that affects citizens’ lives (like the Yellow Vest rally that protested a fuel price hike in France last year and now they are protesting pension reforms). Despite the declining emissions, reaching the target set in the benchmark will be a long way to go.
Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, stated as Vox quoted: “The European Council can demonstrate leadership by adopting a more ambitious national climate commitment next year. This, in turn, would help open the door for more major economies to put forward ambitious climate plans in 2020.”