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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

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - World

Biden picks Rob Malley as envoy for Iran

Malley (L) during Iran deal negotiations in Vienna, 2015. Photo: Siamek Ebrahimi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Image

Rob Malley will serve as the Biden administration's special envoy for Iran, working out of the State Department, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Friday.

Why it matters: Malley, a former Middle East adviser to Barack Obama, took part in the negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal and is a strong supporter of a U.S. return to the agreement. Reports of his likely selection led to sharp criticism from opponents of the deal like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), while former colleagues from the Obama administration rallied to Malley's defense.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

GM plans to end sales of gasoline powered cars by 2035

GM CEO Mary Barra at the GM Orion Assembly Plant plant for electric and self-driving vehicles in Michigan. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

General Motors is setting a worldwide target to end sales of gasoline and diesel powered cars, pickups and SUVs by 2035, the automaker said Thursday.

Why it matters: GM's plan marks one of the auto industry's most aggressive steps to transform their portfolio to electric models that currently represent a tiny fraction of overall sales.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

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