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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

European Commission targets tighter emissions reductions target


European Commission flags flying outside building Photo: Adobe Stock
The European Commission has recommended a 90% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions, relative to 1990 levels, by 2040

Photo: Adobe Stock

The European Commission (EC) has recommended a 90% reduction in net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, relative to 1990 levels, by 2040, as part of a European Union (EU) drive to become the world’s first carbon-neutral continent.

The new target will need to be formally adopted by the next Commission after the EU elections this summer. However, this is expected to be ‘challenging’ in light of previous opposition to the ‘Fit for 55’ target of a 55% reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2030, part of the European Green Deal strategy to fight climate change and achieve climate neutrality.  


Some sector-specific targets were dropped from the new emissions reduction proposal at a late stage, such as specific goals for agriculture following highly disruptive farmer-led protests in Paris earlier this year that led to the EU backtracking on plans to mandate a halving of chemical pesticide use this decade and calling for the sector to cut methane emissions.


Delivering the new 2040 emissions reduction target will require considerable acceleration of work already underway. The EC emphasised the Green Deal ‘now needs to become an industrial decarbonisation deal’ that ‘builds on existing industrial strengths, like wind power, hydropower, and electrolysers, and continues to increase domestic manufacturing capacity in growth sectors like batteries, electric vehicles, heat pumps, solar photovoltaics (PV), carbon capture use and storage (CCUS), biogas and biomethane, and the circular economy’.  


Reflecting the role that carbon capture is expected to play in meeting the new 2040 target, the EC also unveiled a proposal that member states collectively aim to capture 280mn t/y of CO2 by 2040, up from the previous goal of 30mn t/y by 2030. However, environmental groups believe the use of such technology should not be encouraged, stating that the focus should instead be on ‘genuinely green’ renewables such as wind, solar and battery storage.


The EC also stressed that carbon pricing and access to finance, both public and private, would be ‘critical for the delivery of emission reduction targets by European industry’ and that it planned to set up a dedicated taskforce to develop a global approach to carbon pricing and carbon markets.  


In addition, the EC noted that ‘fairness, solidarity and social policies should remain at the core of the transition’ and that ‘open dialogue with all stakeholders’ would be ‘a crucial precondition to delivering the clean transition’.  


Green groups were quick to point out that the new 2040 emissions reduction proposal made no mention of a phase out or phase down of oil and gas, even though last December (2023) the EU played an essential role in the final wording of the COP28 Agreement’s commitment to a ‘transition away from fossil fuels’.  


Commenting on the new targets, Commissioner Kadri Simson noted: ‘For the energy system, this 90% reduction of carbon emissions for 2040 means an almost full decarbonisation of the sector. This will be driven by the accelerated deployment of renewable energy and the phasing out of fossil fuels, which will be reduced by 80%, compared to 2021. The share of electricity in energy consumption will double, from 25% in 2030 to 50% in 2040. This will come predominantly from sun, wind, hydropower, but also low carbon technologies.’


She continued: ‘The demand side will also change. Energy-intensive industries will integrate new technologies and modernise production processes. Energy efficient renovations and heat pumps will be dominant in the residential sector. Europe will also gain more energy sovereignty. Because today, Europe is still too dependent on imported fossil fuels, but by 2040, this share will be reduced to 26%. This will reduce the cost of purchasing imported fuels and make Europe more resilient to shocks. In short, a pathway to –90% brings important benefits, is technologically feasible, and will bring affordable energy for Europe’s competitiveness.’


Transport & Environment Climate Director Sofie Defour said: ‘Today, the EU showed the world how you can turn real climate ambition into powerful industrial policy...  But this headline goal will fall flat if it doesn’t come hand in hand with a phase out of fossil fuels and new laws cracking down on the oil majors. Europe will desperately try to meet a 2040 goal whilst still feeding on fossil fuels. But you simply can’t outrun a bad diet.’


Meanwhile, Greenpeace’s Silvia Pastorelli stated that the EU must avoid ‘creative accounting’ and cannot shy away from ‘an end to fossil fuels and a plan to finally tackle farm emissions’.