Factbox: The road to Europe's new climate change target

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday for their first talks on a new emissions-cutting target for 2030, requiring every sector to become greener, faster.

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The two-day summit is not expected to yield a deal on the goal, according to draft meeting conclusions, but aims to lay the groundwork for countries to clinch an agreement at a December summit. [nL4N2H6249] [nL8N2H55I2]

Here are the key issues:


The EU’s current target is a 40% emissions cut by 2030, against 1990 levels. That would fail to put the bloc on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050, a pathway which, if followed globally, would avert the most devastating impacts of climate change.

The European Commission wants a net greenhouse gas emissions cut of at least 55% by 2030, against 1990 levels. Experts say that is the minimum effort needed to give the EU a realistic shot at its long-term climate plan. [nL4N2G42XZ]

Once they have agreed their common position, EU countries must agree the final goal with the European Parliament, which wants a deeper 60% cut this decade. [nL8N2GY1AO]


EU countries take decisions by unanimity, so the challenge is to win over central and eastern states worried by the economic fallout of tougher climate policies.

Roughly half of the 27 states have said they back a 55% emissions cut.

Poland, which gets most of its power from coal, wants more detailed analysis of the new goal’s impact on individual countries. Draft conclusions for this week’s summit ask the Commission to provide this.

The Czech Republic has insisted that the emissions cut should be an EU-wide average, not a binding national target, allowing some countries to go slower if others cut faster.

However, others want guarantees that all countries will contribute. An Hungarian official said the target must ensure there is “no free riding” to reach the goal.


Much of the debate is about money. The Commission says a 55% cut would require extra investments of 350 billion euros a year in the energy sector this decade, compared with the previous decade.

Countries have agreed to spend 30% of the EU’s mammoth 1.8 trillion euro budget and coronavirus recovery fund on climate action. The package also includes a multi-billion-euro Just Transition Fund to help fossil fuel dependent regions shift to clean energy. [nL4N2GD2OK]

Poland said it needed assurances that support will reach vulnerable communities. “The future actions cannot lead to an increase of energy poverty,” a Polish official said.


The EU is hurrying to meet a deadline for countries to upgrade their emissions-cutting pledges under the Paris Agreement this year.

Dragging a decision on the target into 2021 could also disrupt a wave of EU emissions-cutting policies due next summer, including reforms to the bloc’s carbon market and tighter CO2 standards for cars.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by John Chalmers