European Union lawmakers have backed a plan to cut greenhouse gases by 60% from 1990 levels by 2030, hoping member states will not try to water the target down during upcoming negotiations.
Results of the vote released on Thursday confirm their preliminary votes earlier this week on a landmark law to make the EU's climate targets legally binding. The law, which contains the new EU emissions-cutting goal for 2030, passed by a large majority of 231 votes.
Parliament must now agree the final law with the EU's 27 member countries, only a few of whom have said they would support a 60% emissions-cutting target. Lawmakers want to avoid countries whittling it away to below the level of emissions cuts proposed by the EU executive of at least 55%. The EU's current 2030 target is a 40% emissions cut.
Parliament also supported a proposal to launch an independent scientific council to advise on climate policy – a system already in place in Britain and Sweden – and a carbon budget, setting out the emissions the EU could produce without scuppering its climate commitments.
In the same vein on Wednesday the European Parliament symbolically rejected the European Union-Mercosur free-trade agreement due to what several parliamentarians have called “deep concern about the environmental policy of Jair Bolsonaro.”
In an unprecedented move, Parliament’s plenary approved an amendment in a report on the application of European trade policy, emphasizing that the “EU-Mercosur agreement cannot be ratified in its current form.”
This amendment received 345 votes in favor, 295 against, and 56 abstentions. It is highly symbolic and not mandatory, but it reflects the extremely difficult environment to implement the bi-regional agreement which has been negotiated over the past 20 years.
In practice, the need for additional guarantees by the Bolsonaro government in the environmental area will be essential for Europeans to decide whether or not to move to ratify the bi-regional agreement.
With climate-related impacts such as more intense heat waves and wildfires already felt across Europe, and thousands of young people taking to the streets last month to demand tougher action, the EU is under pressure to ramp up its climate policies.
Groups representing investors with €62 trillion in assets under management, plus hundreds of businesses and non-governmental organizations on Thursday wrote to EU leaders urging them to agree an emissions-cutting target of at least 55% for 2030.
Scientists say this target, which has been proposed by the European Commission, is the minimum effort needed to give the EU a realistic shot at becoming climate neutral by 2050. The commission wants the new 2030 goal finalized by the end of the year.
However, the climate law will require compromise from member countries. Wealthier states with large renewable energy resources are pushing for deeper emissions cuts, but coal-heavy countries including Poland and Czech Republic fear the economic fallout of tougher targets.