Europeans call for zero emissions by 2030 in poll

By: Reinhold Pape

Last May the European Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, in consultation with experts from Bertelsmann Stiftung, conducted a poll of more than 12,000 respondents between the ages of 16 and 69 in all 27 EU member states and the United Kingdom about climate policies.

According to the poll “most Europeans believe climate change requires imminent action. Carbon emissions from cars, planes and industry are an important driver of climate change. Europeans see greater urgency to reduce these emissions than the European Commission currently does”. The poll says that “on average, 58% of Europeans would like EU countries to reduce their carbon emissions to no excess emissions by 2030. The current Commission target of EU carbon neutrality by 2050 received the support of only 8% of the young and 10% of those aged 30–49 and 50–69. To encourage the transition away from fossil fuels, 69% of Europeans think governments should concentrate on subsidising renewable energy. Besides subsidising renewables, Europeans also think governments should establish re-training programmes for employees of fossil-fuel businesses to move to other industries”. The results of the poll are in line with science calls, which say that if present emissions of GHGs continue at the same level, the carbon budget that can still be emitted to stay within the Paris target would be used up within 10 years (1).

But the targets in the poll are not in line with discussions in the EU about future climate targets. The current EU target is to reduce GHGs by 40% by 2030. The EU Commission has proposed a new reduction target of 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. The member of the European Parliament in charge of the new EU climate law, Jytte Guteland from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), announced in April 2020 that she will support an increase in the EU’s 2030 climate target to 65%. In October the EU parliament voted for a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Last year, the United Nations’ Emissions Gap Report said that at the global level, annual emission reductions of 7.6% between now and 2030 will be needed to achieve the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement.

Climate Action Network Europe, a coalition of more than 130 NGOs and more than 40 million members, is also calling for at least a 65% reduction in GHGs by 2030 and for net-zero emissions by 2040.

Reinhold Pape

In this issue


The clock is ticking to achieve the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. To be clear right from the start: this goal deserves every effort that mankind can pull off. In the name of realism, this is the goal we must focus on now, given the current level of progress in reducing greenhouse gases. However, damage to marine ecosystems will not be avoided even if we reach this goal1. In fact, damage already occurs at current levels of warming, as evidenced by the bleaching of coral reefs2. This may be an inconvenient truth when our current goal is 1.5°C.

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