State of the European Union: Brave Vision Must be Matched with Bold Action

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The EU needs to match its hopeful green vision with more ambitious environmental action, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said in response to the European Commission president’s annual State of the Union speech.

President Ursula Von der Leyen reiterated today her commitment to the European Green Deal in the European Commission’s annual speech on the State of the Union.

While vowing to ensure a green recovery from the ongoing economic crisis, Von der Leyen has faced criticism from the EEB and other green groups in relation to climate targets.

Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the EEB, said: “We welcome von der Leyen’s reiteration of her commitment to the European Green Deal and to ensuring a green recovery from the economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But positive high-level rhetoric needs to be matched by ambitious concrete commitments, and here the Commission is still failing to align its ambition not only with what science demands but what the younger generations who will pay for today’s bailouts are demanding. One clear example of this is in relation to climate targets.”

Climate Targets

One of the main talking points today was climate action, with Von der Leyen announcing she will reveal tomorrow a detailed plan to address the climate emergency over the next decade. The Commission president proposes to raise the EU’s 2030 target for emissions reduction to 55%.

Despite representing a considerable improvement from the previously agreed 40% target, this is still not enough, said the EEB. Scientific evidence, progressive lawmakers and civil society organisations suggest that at least 65% is needed. The Commission’s proposal also waters down another proposal put forward last week by the European Parliament’s environment committee which voted to raise the target to 60%.

Barbara Mariani, senior policy officer for climate and energy at the EEB, said:

“It is regrettable that the European Commission is not taking into consideration a higher emissions reduction target than 55%. A 60% would already be a compromise from the 65% put forward by MEP Jytte Guteland and supported by scientific evidence.”

The Commission has also faced criticism on specific aspects of its climate plans, which were leaked to the media this week. According to the EEB:

  • The proposal focuses too much on land use and carbon sink. This can potentially turn into an accounting trick to reduce the scale of emissions cuts across different sectors, which is already below expectations.
  • The proposal still lacks a strategy to address embodied emissions in goods produced in the EU and in those that are imported. According to Eurostat, about 15% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions are imported from third countries.
  • The very high target for renewables in transport (all cars and roads must be climate neutral by 2050) raises several sustainability questions which go beyond climate. The goal should be to boost public transport and reduce traffic on our roads.

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