Brussels on Tuesday published its 2040 climate roadmap, outlining a “just” transition and “guaranteeing industrial competitiveness”, amid growing opposition to environmental standards four months before European elections.
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The 27 have already set a target of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 (in 2020 the reduction was 31%) in order to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050.
As an interim target, the European Commission recommends aiming for a net reduction of 90% by 2040, which would be equivalent to continuing the reduction rate as in the period 2020-2030.
“Climate action requires planning now (…) It is a marathon, not a sprint, and we need to make sure everyone crosses the finish line,” Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra told the European Parliament.
“Leadership in green industries and just transition are two sides of the same coin,” added Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.
If “equality, solidarity and social policy must enable low-income households to make an effective transition,” other political prerequisites are necessary: “ensuring the competitiveness” of manufacturers, “fair competitive conditions” internationally, “stable and permanent jobs.” “…
Paths set out in broad strokes: The European executive had to update its forecasts in the six months following COP28 in December, but due to the pre-election context only announced a general “communication” on Tuesday.
The next commission resulting from the June vote will have the difficult task of presenting a formal legislative proposal to states and the renewed European Parliament.
Brussels calls for an “open dialogue with all stakeholders” and wants to allay concerns about the socio-economic impact of forced greening: its “Green Deal” has become a scarecrow for public opinion.
After transport, energy and industry, these environmental laws on agricultural issues failed due to strong opposition from right-wing MEPs and farmers, while heads of state and government called for a “regulatory break” to relieve the burden on companies and households.
As the elections approach and the rise of the far right and nationalists is expected, the debate over environmental standards – at the heart of recent agricultural demonstrations – is proving politically explosive.
When mentioning the greening of agriculture (11% of European emissions), the text removes the potential for reducing agricultural emissions mentioned in a previous document and considers it “more effective” to include the entire agri-food chain to take sight.
“Climate policy is becoming more complicated, more emotional, more risky (…) To be socially acceptable and politically viable, strong measures are needed in the coming years: new green financing, strengthened energy management…,” believes Simone Tagliapietra from the Bruegel Institute.
“The mere application of the measures already approved will allow us to get closer to -90% in 2040, but this target remains revolutionary, it will require a massive decarbonization of the sectors where this is difficult,” he warns.
Brussels is planning an “Industrial Green Pact” with regulations, supply chains and adequate financing, but above all access to sufficient and affordable carbon-free energy with the further growth of renewable energies, hydrogen networks, but also civil nuclear power via future small modular reactors.
Electricity production would be “virtually decarbonized in the second half of the 2030s,” while consumption of fossil fuels burned for energy would fall by 80% by 2040.
“Continue your efforts”
Finally, the 2040 projections are largely based on the capture and storage of large amounts of carbon – to the great dismay of NGOs who criticize these “unproven” technologies and the lack of a fossil release date or associated subsidies.
“It is just as important as a lung cancer prevention goal without a plan to quit smoking,” complained Greenpeace’s Silvia Pastorelli.
Carbon market, transport, carbon tax at the borders… Since the legislation has already been passed, “the work for the period before 2030 is done, the acceleration is happening now, then it will be an expansion” of the effort, replies Pascal Canfin , President (Renew, Liberals) of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament.
“Of course we have to keep going. “It’s an election question,” he warns.
According to Brussels, the investments required in the period 2031-2050 could reach 660 billion euros annually in energy and 870 billion euros in transport: a colossal cost that combines public investment and private resources, but can be compared to the “cost of inaction” in view of climate damage.