A scientific advisory group for the European Union (EU) has called on the bloc to significantly speed up its efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve its climate targets for 2030 and 2050.
The European Climate Neutrality Observatory (ENCO), in its ‘State of EU Progress to Climate Neutrality report’ tracking the EU’s progress, highlighted poor progress in finance and forestry as key obstacles to decarbonisation.
The report underscored the EU’s requirement to ramp up annual climate investments by €360 billion (£309bn) to reach its net zero emissions goal by 2050. It also called for increased measures by the EU to assist households in reducing their carbon footprint. While the EU has positioned itself as a frontrunner in climate policy, aiming for a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050, the report revealed that further cuts of 132 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year are needed to achieve the 2030 target.
Rob Jetten, Dutch minister for climate and energy who negotiates for the EU at COP climate summits, said it was crucial that Europe hit its emissions reduction targets because the region “needs to lead and set the example on climate action, given our historic responsibility.”
While the European Commission (EC) closed its consultation on setting the bloc’s 2040 target, the ECNO report warned that gaps in data impede policymakers’ ability to make informed decisions towards achieving climate neutrality. Although EU lawmakers are not obliged to follow the advisory body’s recommendations, an upcoming report from the European Court of Auditors is expected to support the researchers’ findings, suggesting that the EU has not taken sufficient action towards its 2030 target.
The ECNO report also revealed that the EU’s average carbon footprint from household expenditure decreased by only 1.2% annually between 2014 and 2019, a rate deemed insufficient to meet the 2050 climate neutrality goal. The lack of EU policies supporting consumers in adopting sustainable lifestyles, apart from a modest decline in red meat consumption, was highlighted. The report further stressed the need for Europe’s agrifood sector to decarbonise at a rate more than double its current pace.
Concerns were raised regarding the EU’s fossil fuel subsidies, with expenditures soaring in 2021 and 2022 to €46.2 billion (£39.5bn), driven by the energy crisis resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The report noted a lack of relevant indicators at the EU level to assess the alignment of the financial system with the Paris Agreement, as well as a lack of mechanisms to track the compatibility of trade policies with its goals.
The report also found inadequate investment in power networks to support renewable energy deployment, slow progress in phasing out fossil fuel-powered boilers, and limited uptake of clean energy by industries as areas requiring urgent attention.
The commission said the current president Ursula von der Leyen took office in 2019 “with a plan to strengthen the EU’s climate targets”.
“The EU now has binding emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2050 fixed in the Climate Law . . . and the pace of transition is increasing across Europe.”
The announcement follows a recent report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, that found that Europe had its warmest year on record in 2022, with average temperatures about 2.3 °C above the pre-industrial average (1850-1900).
The report, titled “State of the Climate in Europe 2022,” also found that climate change is taking a major human, economic, and environmental toll on the region. Extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and marine heatwaves all had devastating impacts in 2022.
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