EU sets goal to be ‘climate neutral’ by 2050

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Brussels, Nov 28 :  The European Union on Wednesday urged government, businesses, citizens and regions to join it in an ambitious plan to cut emissions and make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.

“True, there are many challenges on the road,” warned EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said.

“But status quo is not an option.”

According to Canete, if Europe retains its current targets it will only reduce net carbon emissions by 60 per cent by mid-century, not enough to meet the bloc’s pledges under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Delegations from more than 200 countries are due in Poland next week for the latest COP24 climate summit, aimed at renewing and building on the Paris deal and limiting global warming.

The EU, whose 28 members together form one of the world’s biggest and hence most polluting economies, is keen to play its part and become the first major world player to be “climate neutral”.

But the “strategic long-term vision” unveiled on Wednesday relies on member states to take action.

“We are today kicking off a process to determine how Europe’s energy and climate policy will evolve between now and 2050,” Canete told a news conference at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.

“The proposed strategy does not intend to launch new policies, nor does the European Commission intend to revise 2030 targets,” he said.

“It is meant to set the direction of travel of climate and energy policy and to frame what the European Union considers as its long-term contribution to achieving the Paris Agreement temperature objectives.”

To this end, according to an EU news release, the strategy is “an invitation” to European citizens, businesses and institutions “to show leadership” and to put forward ideas to limit emissions.

Member states will submit their draft national climate and energy plans to the European Commission by the end of 2018, the commission said.

While more homes will be insulated and transport will be modernised, the key plank of any successful strategy will be to reduce fossil fuel use in energy production by 80 per cent by 2050, Canete said.

This implies increasing investments in clean energy from two per cent of Europe’s GDP to 2.8 per cent — representing an additional spend of between 175 and 290 billion euros per year, he said.

But he promised that this would also reduce the cost of energy imports by two to three trillion euros by 2050.

These plans will cover commitments already made to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40 per cent before 2030, while the strategy now aims “for a climate neutral Europe by 2050”.

Pressure group Climate Action Network (CAN) welcomed the more ambitious 2050 target, but warned that the continuing 2030 goals still do not go far enough “to prevent the climate catastrophe.”

“As a matter of urgency, the EU needs to massively increase the 2030 target,” CAN Europe director Wendel Trio said.

“It is the short term emission cuts that will make or break our response to climate change.”

But — while they all signed up in Paris for a plan to try to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures — EU members are not united on strategy.

Germany, for example, has resisted higher targets for emissions cuts on cars, and Poland — the host of next week’s global summit — is defensive about its massive reliance on coal-fired power stations.

In France, street protests have broken out over the government’s attempts to raise taxes on motor fuels.

World leaders have been trying to breathe new life into the 195-nation Paris Agreement amid backsliding from several nations — most notably the United States — over their commitments.

The accord is to take effect in 2020, and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) now warns that its two-degree goal is already out of date.

Experts warn the temperature rise is on track to surpass three degrees by 2100 and urge governments they must do more than first planned if global warming is to be reined in at all.

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