Greta Gives Thumbs Down to Europe’s Landmark New Climate Law
(Bloomberg) -- Europe’s ambitious plan to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by the middle of the century has failed to convince environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
The European Union is due to unveil on Wednesday a draft law to make irrevocable a goal to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050, without setting intermediate targets at this stage. The legal proposal is the cornerstone of the bloc’s Green Deal, a far-reaching strategy that foresees a radical overhaul of the European economy over the next three decades.
“Net zero emissions by 2050 for the EU equals surrender,” Thunberg and 33 other young climate activists wrote in an open letter to the region’s leaders. “It means giving up. We don’t just need goals for just 2030 or 2050. We, above all, need them for 2020 and every following month and year to come.”
The scolding highlights the challenges policy makers face as they seek to balance business interests with the ambitions of an ever-growing environmental movement. Fighting climate change has catapulted to the top of the EU’s agenda, with 93% of Europeans seeing global warming as a serious problem.
The Green Deal was designed to appease these concerns and become a new growth strategy for the 27-nation bloc. But regulatory proposals by the EU’s executive arm are subject to approval by member states, and the climate law reflects the need to seek a compromise between competing national positions.
With differing energy mixes, wealth and industrial strength, EU governments are set to wrangle over every bit of the climate strategy and the draft law that will set the basis for the clean-up.
The climate law, to be unveiled by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Wednesday, will make it binding for the EU as a whole to balance emissions and removals of greenhouse gases by 2050 at the latest, according to a draft reviewed by Bloomberg. After that date, removals from the atmosphere would exceed emissions.
It will also offer a hint on when the EU is going to make good on von der Leyen’s pledge to tighten the 2030 emissions-cut target to 50% or even 55% from 1990 levels. The current goal to reduce pollution by at least 40% will be revised by September. Then, by 2023 and “every five years thereafter,” the EU will assess the progress made by governments and possibly modify the trajectory to reach the 2050 goal.
The commission’s plan is to make everything from agriculture to the design of cities more sustainable. The costs are dizzying: to reach the existing 2030 goal Europe needs investment of 260 billion euros ($290 billion) annually. In a bid to garner broad support for the green shift, the EU wants to create a 143-billion-euro mechanism to help regions most affected by the transition.
For Thunberg, long-term targets mean “absolutely nothing,” as the total carbon dioxide humanity can emit before catastrophic climate change becomes irreversible risks being used much earlier. She and her colleagues also dismiss the idea of “carbon neutrality” before there are technologies at scale to remove emissions from the atmosphere.
“And since these negative emissions technologies that you put all your faith in don’t exist today at scale, we simply need to stop doing certain things,” they said. “Even if that means we have to change our economy.”
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