European Council Sets Trailblazing Target to Cut Emissions at Least 55%

Statement from Jill Duggan, Executive Director, Environmental Defense Fund Europe

(11 Dec. 2020) The European Council took a crucial decision today to reduce the EU’s emissions at least 55% by 2030 relative to 1990 levels, the level necessary to put the EU on a path to climate neutrality by 2050. The decision came the day before the five year anniversary of the Paris climate agreement. 

“The EU is once again a trailblazer on climate action. It was the EU that led the world on climate by adopting an ambitious target before the Paris climate talks, and today it has taken on a vastly strengthened climate target ahead of next year’s pivotal meeting in Glasgow. Reducing emissions at least 55% is a huge shift forward from the target the EU first put forward in 2014 of at least 40%. It ensures that the EU is on track to reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, and sets the bar for other countries’ climate ambition for COP26. 

“Don’t think this will be easy for the EU. Any economy would find reducing emissions 55% to be a heavy lift, and the EU – especially in light of Brexit – is no exception. The UK’s exit from the EU target puts more strain on the 27 remaining Member States to achieve the overall goal, and many countries in Europe, particularly the central and eastern European Member States, are less economically advanced and more energy intensive than others.  

“Even just the EU proposing this ambitious target has seemingly already had an effect on other major economies’ willingness to step up their own climate goals. China has come forward with an encouraging goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060. The UK has committed to reducing its emissions 68% by 2030. And Japan and South Korea have both committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. Other countries, including the U.S., should feel confident that they’re in good company to follow Europe’s lead and take on a tough but crucial climate goal under the Paris Agreement. 

“The EU now faces the significant challenge of developing the policies and measures required to implement the new target. 

“Europe should now put forward the ‘at least 55%’ target as the new EU commitment under the Paris Agreement before the end of the year.”

  • Jill Duggan, Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund Europe

Raul Arce-Contreras, +1 (240) 480-1545, 


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