EU presses on with tighter 2030 climate target despite pandemic

FILE PHOTO: European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans speaks with French Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Elisabeth Borne before meeting with EU environment ministers in Brussels, Belgium, March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

(Reuters) - The EU executive kick-started its plan to set a tougher 2030 emissions target on Tuesday, a move that could help maintain the bloc’s focus on climate change despite pressure to soften its green ambitions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Commission began a public consultation to gather views until June 23 on its options to tighten the EU’s 2030 target to a 50% or 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, from the current 40%.

The new target, to be proposed in September, will guide the Commission’s revisions of a suite of EU policies even as it also focuses on a post-coronavirus economic recovery.

The Commission wants to revise EU regulations on the carbon market, renewable energy and energy efficiency by June 2021 as part of its “Green Deal” vision to decarbonise the bloc’s economy by 2050.

The EU executive has said the coronavirus pandemic does not affect this aim, and suggested it will heed calls from campaigners and investors that economic recovery measures should also accelerate the low-carbon transition.

The Commission has said its Green Deal and digitalisation are two central elements of any “intelligent recovery”.

Poland’s government has warned the virus fallout will make climate targets tougher to achieve, while the Czech Republic has called on Brussels to drop its Green Deal.

A group of 37 members of the 705-seat European Parliament asked the three main EU institutions on Monday to postpone new Green Deal legislation and instead focus on agreeing the bloc’s next multi-year budget to help EU members recover.

Green groups had urged the EU to come up with a new 2030 climate goal by June, to have enough time for EU governments and the parliament to agree a target before a major U.N. climate summit scheduled in November.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Grant McCool