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European Commission announces target of zero emissions by 2050

Von der Leyen with members of the European Commission.
Von der Leyen with members of the European Commission. / Reuters
  • The proposals would mean a 50 to 55% reduction in emissions by 2030, as opposed to 40% in current plans

While UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has bemoaned the bureaucratic obstacles blocking significant progress at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, the EU has launched a serious climate project of its own.

Just 11 days into her presidency, the leader of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, announced on Wednesday the ambitious so-called European Green Deal, a far-reaching set of proposals which aim to decarbonise the European Union by 2050.

Her plans would affect multiple sectors of the economy, including agriculture, transport, construction, and energy production. Von der Leyen insists that the move towards zero net emissions is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge, and that growth need not be affected by a move towards a green economy. According to the latest Eurobarometer, public opinion is on her side: 77% of EU citizens believe that action to protect the environment could boost growth.

Current EU plans involve a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which estimates suggest would require an annual investment of 260 billion euros, or 1.5 per cent of the EU's combined GDP in 2018. Von Der Leyen's new plans of 50 or even 55% reductions by 2030 would raise this cost further, but the German stressed the huge costs of inaction; droughts and floods currently cost EU countries 15 billion euros a year.

The Commission's plan would involve a yearly investment of 100 billion euros, and also involves the European Investment Bank incentivising billions of euros of green investment between 2021 and 2030. Her plans may, however, meet resistance from Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. Poland notably relies on coal for 80% of its electricity production.