EU executive wants tougher 2030 climate goals and billions in green bonds

European Parliament president David-Maria Sassoli reacts as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses her first State of the European Union speech during a plenary session of the European Parliament, in Brussels
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gestures as she addresses her first State of the European Union speech during a plenary session of the European Parliament as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Brussels, Belgium September 16, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

September 16, 2020

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s chief executive said on Wednesday the bloc should commit to deeper emissions cuts over the next decade, and pledged to use green bonds to finance its climate goals.

With wildfires, drought and collapsing glaciers wreaking havoc around the world, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said ambitious action to tackle climate change could create millions of extra jobs, aiding Europe’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Von der Leyen said the EU should set a target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, against 1990 levels, confirming plans laid out in draft Commission documents previously reported by Reuters.

The EU’s current 2030 emissions target is for a 40% cut. Experts say a 55% cut is the minimum effort needed by 2030 to put the EU on track for its plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Von der Leyen acknowledged the proposal would divide the European Parliament and member states, which must approve the legally binding target but which disagree on how ambitious it should be.

“I recognise that this increase from 40 to 55 is too much for some, and not enough for others,” she said in a speech in European Parliament.

Poland, the only country which has not committed to the EU’s 2050 climate goal, said the Commission had not delivered a plan to achieve the new target.

“The consequences of such action on the economies and societies of individual member states are unknown,” the Polish climate ministry said in a statement.

The Commission will publish an analysis on Thursday of the steps needed to deliver the goal. This will include huge investments in transport, heavy and energy – where businesses will also face higher carbon costs under EU plans to revamp its carbon market.

Von der Leyen said 30% of the bloc’s 750 billion euro coronavirus recovery package of grants and loans, which the EU as a whole will borrow, should be raised through green bonds.

Meanwhile, 37% of this package should be earmarked for projects to help industries decarbonise – by swapping coal for low-carbon hydrogen in industry, or installing electric car charging points.

The EU is under pressure to agree its new climate target this year, to meet a deadline for countries to make new pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. So far, no large emitters have done so.