This week, a significant event took place quietly: The EU made progress towards committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040, coming close to reaching net zero before a child born today graduates.
The setting was not optimistic. Two contentious hearings in the European Parliament in which a former employee of Shell Oil Company and a Slovakian with minimal experience in climate issues were vying for the top two positions in addressing global warming at the European Commission.
Dutch politician Wopke Hoekstra and Slovakian representative Maroš Šefčovič have both promised to safeguard a reduction of at least 90 percent. Their appointments were subsequently approved by the parliamentary committee.
“The EU is likely to be preoccupied with the 2040 goal next year, which sets a high standard for legislative discussions.”
“The EU must continue to set an example and lead,” stated the pair in a synchronized response to the legislators.
The Green MEPs specifically delayed their approval until they received personal assurances from both individuals regarding the goal.
In June, the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change proposed a target for the EU to reduce its emissions by 90-95 percent below 1990 levels by 2040. This target was deemed both achievable and equitable, as the EU works towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Establishing a goal for 2040 would create a standard for other developed countries in the EU to follow.
The United Kingdom aims to achieve a reduction of 78 percent by the year 2035. However, there are limited countries that have established concrete milestones between 2030 and their long-term objective of reaching net-zero emissions by the mid-century.
According to the advisory panel’s evaluation, achieving a 90% mark would result in reaching net zero, or a close approximation to it, in various economic industries within a span of less than 17 years.
In 2040, Europe will need to produce almost no emissions from its power generation. This will require phasing out coal by 2030 and implementing carbon capture technology for gas-fired power by 2040. Renewable energy sources will account for 70 to 90 percent of electricity production. The amount of oil imported by the bloc will decrease by 50 to 100 percent by 2040.
The European population may need to decrease their consumption of meat, leading to a potential decrease in demand for livestock by 47-58 percent by 2040 according to the advisory board’s analysis. Hoekstra and Šefčovič informed MEPs that the Commission is currently considering how altering lifestyles and diets could contribute to reducing emissions.
The target becoming a law is still a distant possibility.
The initial step of the Commission will be to release an evaluation of the potential effects of different emission scenarios.
Although Hoekstra and Šefčovič have made personal promises, there is no assurance that the Commission will ultimately approve the 90 percent reduction.
The committee referenced Europe’s past role as a significant contributor to emissions when determining that the EU should strive for the highest achievable goal. However, it did not evaluate if reaching 90 percent would be the most efficient step towards achieving net zero.
The expenses will be evaluated by the advisors within the Commission.
Next, the complete group of commissioners, led by their superior Ursula von der Leyen, will have to approve and publish their suggestions. This is scheduled to occur by the spring season.
The proposals made by the Commission will be discussed and negotiated by both the Parliament and the governments of the European Union.
Prior to that occurrence, there will be EU elections, which will likely alter the nature of those discussions and potentially result in the replacement of Hoekstra and Šefčovič’s roles as commissioners.