Brussels — French and German environment ministers have joined calls for the EU to raise its 2030 target to cut CO2 by the end of this year and avoid pro-fossil fuel post-lockdown measures to boost the economy.
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There are now 13 EU environment ministers warning against short-term economic recovery solutions "that risk locking the EU in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come," they said in a joint statement published late last week.
The ministers come from Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
"We must remain resolved to increase the EU's 2030 target before the end of this year," in line with the Paris accord timetable and despite the UN COP26 climate conference planned in November being postponed to next year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the ministers said.
The European Commission plans to present an impact assessment in September showing how to increase the EU's current 2030 CO2 reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels to 50-55% below.
The aim of the higher 2030 target is to help the EU become climate neutral by 2050, as set out in the EC's European Green Deal strategy published in December.
The EC proposed making the 2050 goal binding in its draft European Climate Law unveiled in March. It plans to add any new 2030 CO2 target to the same draft law, which has to be approved by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to become binding.
The ministers said the European Green Deal "provides us with a roadmap to make the right choices in responding to the economic crisis while transforming Europe into a sustainable and climate neutral economy."
They called for more investment in sustainable mobility, renewable energy, building renovations, research and innovation and the circular economy.
They also called for a stronger EU Emissions Trading System, environmental standards and sectoral policies to help cut emissions "in the most cost-effective way."
Big utilities back Green Deal
Meanwhile, the leaders of five major EU utilities have called for massive green investments to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns as part of a new European Alliance for Green Recovery launched on Tuesday.
Enel CEO Francesco Starace, Engie general secretary Claire Waysand, E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen, Iberdrola CEO Ignacio Galan and Verbund CEO Wolfgang Anzengruber joined national ministers, European Parliament members, NGOs, trade bodies and think-tanks in the group set up by EP environment committee chairperson Pascal Canfin.
The group also includes Renault, Volvo, Unilever and the European Investment Bank.
The alliance members want the expected EU recovery plans to "enshrine the fight against climate change...as a key pillar of the economic strategy."
The alliance includes ministers from 11 countries (the same as in the environment ministers' statement, except for Latvia and the Netherlands), 79 cross-party MEPs from 17 EU countries, 37 CEOs, 28 business associations, seven non-governmental organizations and six think-tanks.