EU leaders push for net-zero emissions without setting target date

FILE PHOTO: People attend a demonstration asking for urgent measures to combat climate change, in Paris, France, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders charted a course toward net-zero global warming emissions but without setting a target date for the goal in a draft summit statement on Wednesday.

Climate policy has climbed up the political agenda as thousands of students have taken to the streets in capitals across Europe to protest against their governments’ inaction over global warming.

Draft summit conclusions for a meeting this week “emphasizes the importance of the EU submitting an ambitious long-term strategy by 2020 striving for climate neutrality.”

It also underlines that any policy on combating global warming will take into account the competitiveness of European industry, addressing concerns that growth could be curtailed.

Hoping to inspire national governments to be more ambitious, the EU executive called last year for the bloc to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 - a strategy that would entail deeper emissions cuts by 2030 and greater investment in efforts to absorb greenhouse gases.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the mid-century target in a non-binding resolution last week.

EU lawmakers voiced support for the recent climate protests and called for the EU to increase its current goal of cutting global warming emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

At a summit expected to be dominated by talks over Brexit and trade with China, the summit conclusions push back the discussion on a long-term climate strategy to later in the year, calling on member states to finalize their own national plans.

Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle