The EU executive has been accused of “cheating” on its 2030 climate plans by proposing to include carbon sinks provided by trees, soils and oceans in its emissions reduction target.
The European Commission will this week call for an EU emissions reduction target of “at least 55%” by 2030 from 1990 levels, according to a leaked project seen by the Guardian. The proposal sets the stage for an intense political battle in the fall to agree on the target, intended to put the EU on track to meet a historic commitment of net zero emissions by mid-century.
But critics say Brussels is guilty of an “accounting trick” that makes the proposed 2030 target appear higher than it actually is. The row revolves around the concept of “offsets,” a reference to sinks that absorb more carbon than they emit, such as forests, soils and oceans.
The leaked draft regulation states that “by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced and removals improved, so that net greenhouse gas emissions, i.e. emissions, net of removals, be reduced economy-wide and country-wide by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels. “
The previous version of the law, published in March, made no mention of removals in this context: the commission had promised “to explore options for a new 2030 target of reducing emissions by 50 to 55% compared to the levels of 1990”.
Greenpeace said the change was “risky” because nature was under massive pressure from global warming and loss of biodiversity, evidenced by wildfires in the western United States, the Amazon and the United States. the arctic.
“This commission accounting trick would make any new target higher than it actually is,” said Sebastian Mang, climate and energy policy advisor at Greenpeace. “You can’t win a 100-meter race if you ask someone else to run the last 20 meters. It’s called cheating. Restoring nature is essential, but must be added to efforts to reduce emissions in the most polluting sectors. “
The EU 2050 net zero target means that greenhouse gas emissions would be offset by carbon sinks. But the current 2030 target – a 40% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels – does not include offsets.
Michael Bloss, a German Green MEP, told the Guardian that the inclusion of referrals was a deviation from the current system that could weaken the 2030 target. “It’s a concern because the current legal framework for the the EU’s 2030 target… defines the absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, ”he said.
The MEP added that deviating from the current approach was a form of “creative accounting” which “would undermine the demand for leadership that Europe wants to adopt” in the UN climate negotiations.
The commission argues that it makes sense to include carbon sinks, in line with the 2050 net zero target. An EU official said the creative accounting claim was “incorrect” because “we let’s also retrospectively adjust the baseline for 1990 ”, which means that there would be no“ free ”emission reductions.
“The accounting is still valid,” the source said. “I agree that there is still a discussion about where the EU’s carbon sink is and what it is absorbing. This needs to be clarified in the impact assessment of the LULUCF proposal that we will present next year, ”they added, referring to another EU climate law governing land use, climate change. land use and forestry.
The dispute comes after the European Parliament’s environment committee voted last week for a target of reducing emissions by 60% by 2030, not including carbon sinks. The Greens, however, wanted a target of 65%, which they said was “the only way to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 ° C. [above pre-industrial levels] and ward off the worst effects of the climate crisis ”.
Bloss added: “What we need is climate leadership with a science-based goal and not new uncertainties or even a further weakening of the 2030 goal.”
The European Commission said it did not comment on the leaked documents.