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EU climate plan unveiled, kicking off ‘journey’ to zero carbon goal

The European Commission unveiled its flagship environmental programme on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 designed to take the EU to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Ursula von der Leyen made the “European green deal” a central part of her campaign to secure the EU executive presidency, promising climate-friendly transformation of agriculture, mobility, industry and the energy sector.
Details for crucial parts of the programme are only to be finalised by late 2020.

“We do not have all the answers yet. Today is the start of a journey,” von der Leyen said in Brussels.

But plans to control imports of products with large emissions footprints, bring maritime transport into the EU’s pollution licensing system, plant trees to capture carbon and build up e-mobility infrastructure have already been made public.

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Developed under the guidance of the EU’s top environmental official, Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, the net zero goal is to be achieved through cutting and storing emissions.

The 2050 carbon neutrality goal should be enshrined in an “irreversible” climate law to be proposed by March, according to the commission.

The announcements made so far have already drawn the ire of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), for example, which said ever tighter climate targets were “poison for long-term investments.”

But von der Leyen insists that the green deal will also be a new EU growth plan “that gives back more than it takes away.”

“It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming so that we live healthier and make our businesses innovative,” she said on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, for Greenpeace the commission goal of raising the EU 2030 carbon emissions reduction target – from its current 40 per cent to up to a maximum 55 per cent as compared to 1990 levels – is not ambitious enough.

To meet the more ambitious variant of the Paris goal – limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – von der Leyen should push for 65-per-cent emissions reduction by 2030, according to the environmental group.

To help compensate the regions most affected by the transition to cleaner energy, the German conservative politician has announced a goal of mobilising 100 billion euros ($111 billion) of financing.

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She plans to draw on EU funds, but also rely heavily on public and private money from elsewhere.

Lining up the funds is likely crucial to get the backing of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The three eastern states have so far blocked a whole-EU commitment to 2050 carbon neutrality.

Von der Leyen is hoping to win them over at an EU leaders summit starting on Thursday.

“Discussions are still under way and are necessary with a number of countries,” European Council President, Charles Michel, who is to chair the summit, told journalists on Wednesday.

A key issue will likely be how much money can be put towards supporting their energy transition, he noted.

The criteria used to determine which projects and countries are eligible for such funds may be another battleground.


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