Editorial: EU climate target still not adapted to climate reality
On 8 September, the UN once again issued a report showing how governments are failing to take adequate action to implement the promises they made in the Paris Agreement. The so-called Synthesis Report on the Technical Dialogue from the First Global Stocktake showed how governments are good at making ambitious collective commitments but fail to take the right action at home to turn these collective pledges into a reality.
The report stated again that there is a substantial gap between countries’ climate pledges (NDCs – Nationally Determined Contributions) and what is needed to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. And the report therefore strengthened the calls made at previous climate summits in Glasgow (COP25/2021) and Sharm el-Sheikh (COP26/2022) for countries to review and strengthen their 2030 climate targets. This ambition is strongly supported by the EU, as its environment ministers last year indicated in the run up to the Climate Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh:
“HIGHLIGHTS that, collectively, NDCs and their updates, including those announced in, before and after COP26, are insufficient. RECALLS that all Parties have been requested to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their NDCs as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022. CALLS, therefore, on all Parties to come forward with ambitious targets and policies, and URGES in particular major economies to revisit and strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in time for COP27 (...). HIGHLIGHTS with serious concern that global ambition must substantially increase in order to keep the 1.5°C objective within reach, in line with the Paris Agreement.”
When reading this strong statement, one would assume that the EU would be the first to revisit its own 2030 climate target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, a target the EU adopted in December 2020, well before it agreed to the strong “revisit and strengthen” pledges at COP25 and COP26. Furthermore, the European Commission has calculated that the full implementation of current EU policies and in particular the agreement, pushed by the European Parliament, to limit the use of nature-based removals in the calculation of the overall EU reductions, would lead to actual emissions being on track for a reduction of 57 per cent by 2030. However, despite the strong statements from the Council and the Commission, the current draft review of the NDC does not foresee a change to the 55 per cent reduction target.
Instead, the European Commission and some member states claim that the inclusion of references to specific policies that have been adopted since the previous NDC submission of June 2021 is sufficient to say the EU “strengthened” its NDC. This is a fairly controversial interpretation of the commitments made by the EU in Glasgow and Sharm el-Sheikh. If all (G20) countries were to follow this approach we might indeed reduce the implementation gap, but not reduce the ambition gap, which is the one that most assessments, including the Global Stocktake Synthesis Report focus on.
It seems EU environment ministers might still agree on an increase of the EU NDC to the projected 57 per cent reduction at their meeting of 16 October. Doing so might help the EU to retain its credibility, but a 57 per cent reduction by 2030 is in no way a reflection of the EU’s fair share of the global effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. In order to do so the EU’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction target would need to be around 75 per cent in 2030, and would need to be complemented by substantial financial support to poorer countries in recognition of the historical responsibility of the EU and its greater capacity to act.