London — EU leaders have agreed that the bloc must be climate-neutral by 2050, which if implemented fully would end its demand for unabated fossil fuels.
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The leaders also reiterated that national governments must keep the right to choose their energy mix and safeguard their energy supplies, and that some governments will include nuclear power, they said early Friday after meeting in Brussels.
The leaders' accord makes it more likely the European Commission's European climate law proposal planned for March to make this goal binding will get the qualified majority approval it would need from EU governments.
The European Parliament, which will also have to approve the law, has already backed the 2050 net-zero carbon goal.
This goal is more ambitious than the current non-binding EU goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, and the EC plans to review all relevant EU legislation to see what needs to change to achieve the new target.
This includes raising the EU's binding 2030 target to cut its CO2 from the current 40% to between 50%-55% from 1990 levels.
The EC plans to publish an assessment in the summer on what the new 2030 CO2 target should be, and how to achieve it "in a responsible way", it said in its European Green Deal policy paper published on Wednesday.
Once the EC has decided what the higher 2030 target should be, it will propose including it in the European climate law, so that both the 2050 and 2030 CO2 targets are enshrined in the same law.
Higher CO2 cuts by 2030 will put more pressure on sectors currently outside the EU's Emissions Trading System, including transport, agriculture and buildings, to cut their emissions by reducing their oil and other fossil fuel demand.
EU leaders also agreed that all relevant EU legislation should be changed as needed to help achieve the 2050 net-zero carbon goal, "while respecting a level playing field."
This supports the EC's plans to propose a huge legislative package in June 2021 to align EU rules with the 2050goal.
This would include proposals to extend the EU ETS to shipping and reduce free allowances for airlines, revise the energy taxation directive to promote lower carbon fuels and a switch away from diesel, and set stricter CO2 emission standards for cars and vans.
These proposals could boost demand for LNG as a lower-emission fuel for ships and trucks, as well as for biofuels, electricity and hydrogen in road transport.
The aim is to ensure "effective carbon pricing throughout the economy," the EC said in its European Green Deal policy paper.
The package would also include updated energy efficiency and renewable energy directives, which would likely reduce demand for natural gas in the heating and power sectors.
The current directives include a binding 2030 target to source 32% of the EU's final energy demand from renewables, and a non-binding 2030 target to save 32.5% of EU energy compared with business as usual.
POLAND NEEDS MORE TIME
Poland needs more time to look at the details of potential EU funding to help it move from its carbon-dependenteconomy, and so did not join the other leaders in backing the 2050 commitment on Friday, EC President Ursula von derLeyen told reporters after the meeting.
Poland's position would not change the EC's timetable for making its European Green Deal proposals, however, she said.
The EC plans to publish detailed proposals for a Just Transition Fund and a Sustainable European Investment Plan in January, both of which are to help support countries move to lower-carbon economies.
-- Siobhan Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles, email@example.com