Dec 11, 2020 - World

EU leaders agree to cut carbon emissions at least 55% by 2030

An electricity mast stands as steam and smoke rise from the Belchatow Power Station behind on November 29, 2018 at Rogowiec, Poland.

Steam and smoke rise from the Belchatow Power Station in Rogowiec, Poland. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

European Union leaders have agreed to cut net carbon emissions at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, European Council President Charles Michel announced on Friday.

The big picture: The agreement eased concerns among Eastern European countries, including Poland, that rely heavily on coal, while putting the EU on a path toward its goal to be climate-neutral by 2050.

  • Many details of the agreement, which came after an all-night negotiating session, still need to be worked out by the European Commission.
  • But leaders "decided the target has to be reached by the bloc collectively — effectively giving coal-depended countries more time to transition their energy consumption," the New York Times noted.

What they're saying saying: "Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change," Michel tweeted in announcing the agreement.

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that the agreement "puts us on a clear path towards climate neutrality in 2050."
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a news conference on Friday that the decision was “worth losing a night’s sleep,” per NYT. “I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t been able to achieve such a result.”
  • Michal Kurtyka, Poland’s minister of climate and environment, said the deal "on the one hand allows us to realize the E.U. target, and on the other creates conditions for a just transition of the Polish economy and the energy sector,” the NYT reported.

Yes, but: Many environmental and climate groups and activists said Friday's agreement falls shorts.

  • Sebastian Mang, Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser, said in a statement: “Governments will no doubt call it historic, but the evidence shows that this deal is only a small improvement on the emission cuts the EU is already expected to achieve. It shows that political convenience takes precedence over climate science, and that most politicians are still afraid to take on big polluters."
  • Jytte Guteland, an MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the European Climate Law, tweeted after the deal was announced that it "is important not to be fooled into thinking that a net target of 55 percent is sufficient. I have a strong mandate from the elected representatives in the European Parliament to push for more climate ambition. I intend to do that when we meet and negotiate."
  • Of note: The European Parliament has been pushing for a 60% emissions cut by the end of this decade.

What's next: Friday's agreement comes ahead of the Climate Action Summit slated for this weekend.

  • Specifics, including how the agreement will ensure compliance, still need to be ironed out, the NYT noted.
  • The EU Commission and European Parliament will also need to endorse the deal.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Amy Harder: The EU move could ramp up pressure on the incoming Biden administration as it seeks to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and commit a new U.S. pledge to the deal. Some environmental groups say Biden could commit the country to cutting its emissions nearly 50% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels).

Worth noting: Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, which set a goal to keep global warming to "well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels."

Go deeper: Putting the pandemic year's record emissions drop into context

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