An European Commission report has said that the EU must cut greenhouse gas pollution almost three times more quickly than it has over the past decade to meet its climate targets.
The EU has promised to pump 55% less planet-heating gas into the air in 2030 than it did in 1990, In an attempt to stop weather growing more extreme. But over the past three decades, it has cut emissions by just 32%, leaving behind “significant gaps” for the next seven years, the commission found in its latest State of the Energy Union report.
Current policies will cut emissions in 2030 by just 43%, according to new estimates from the European Environment Agency project, reports show. The figure rises to 48% if they include policies that have been planned but not yet put in place, but still leave a deficit in climate action of seven percentage points.
“To fully achieve these targets, the pace of emissions reductions needs to step up,” said Wopke Hoekstra, the EU’s new climate commissioner.
The commission report praised efforts to quickly do away with gas from Russia in the wake of its war in Ukraine, which rapidly pushed up energy prices. The EU slashed imports of Russian gas from 155bn cubic metres in 2021 to 80bn cubic metres in 2022 and to an estimated 40-45bn cubic metres in 2023.
Recall that the EU also oversaw a boom in clean technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels, the report found, but the commission cautioned that renewable energy needed to grow much faster than it had over the past decade.
On average, the share of renewables in European energy has grown 0.67 percentage points each year to hit 21.8% in 2021. Reaching the EU target of 42.5% by the end of the decade “will require a much faster growth in the coming years”, the report found.
Emissions are falling steadily but three things stand out, said Hoekstra. “One, significant emissions cuts are needed in buildings and transport. Progress in these sectors has been sluggish at best. Two, the natural carbon sink needs to grow. In certain places the carbon sink has become a source of emissions, and that is worrying. And three, we need much more substantial progress in cutting emissions in agriculture.”
Hoekstra, a former employee of oil firm Shell and consultancy McKinsey, was also quoted as saying that fossil fuel subsidies were “unhelpful” for the clean energy transition and reminded national governments of their promises to get rid of them.
Most EU member states responded to the energy crisis by making it easier for people and industries to buy and burn fossil fuels. Subsidies surged to €123bn in 2022, half of which do not have an end date this decade, the report found.
The EU has pledged to push for a global phaseout of unabated fossil fuels – ie those where the planet-heating gases emitted are not captured – and certain subsidies at the Cop28 climate summit next month.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.