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EU agrees to reduce its CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030

European countries, despite initial resistance from Poland, have managed to establish an agreement on reduction by the end of the decade
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AP/OLIVIER MATTHYS  -   European Union leaders meet for year-end summit to discuss everything from climate, sanctions against Turkey to the budget and recovery plans for the virus

The European Union continues to take steps towards its goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Countries have agreed to increase the reduction to 55% by 2030. The agreement was announced by the President of the European Council, the Belgian Charles Michel, who indicated that the European Union "is a leader in the fight against climate change". Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, also said on Twitter that it was "the best way to celebrate the anniversary of the European Green Pact", which was one of the pillars of her five-year term at the head of the Commission.

The European summit, which began yesterday, faced hours of intense negotiations, in which issues that were already blocking some countries had to be dealt with. Cyprus and Greece in relation to Turkey, Hungary and Poland in relation to the recovery funds, and Poland also in relation to the issue of emissions, were the obstacles that had to be overcome during the last hours. In the end, a consensus was reached on all three issues, although the approval of the recovery funds facilitated the energy transition that countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic will have to face in order to achieve the objectives set.

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REUTERS/YVES HERMAN - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrives at the EU face-to-face summit

The target for 2030 was initially set at 40%, slightly lower than the 60% proposed by the European Parliament. The difficulty also lay in the fact that other countries such as Germany, traditionally in favour of major agreements, also had some reticence because of the revolution involved. In order to make all these changes possible, the Green Pact announced at the time by the president of the Commission included what was known as the Just Transition Fund to provide economic support to those countries whose changes need to be more far-reaching. 

The agreement hides a certain trap, as it is proposed that 55% should be a collective figure, so that there will be countries that pull the rug out from under them and there will be more room for those capitals that need a little more time to adjust their economies. It should also be pointed out that this is a minimum agreement, and that it therefore suggests that the figure could be closer to the aforementioned 60% requested by the European Parliament.

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REUTERS/SUSANA VERA - Greta Thunberg and the Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid

At national level, the Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, stressed the difficulty involved in the agreement, especially how to ensure that the objectives and mechanisms to support the conversion were met. According to the minister, the national objectives are aligned with the European objectives and, in some aspects, such as the reduction of emissions or renewable energies, are even more ambitious than the Community objectives.

Teresa Ribera warns that we cannot fall into demagoguery with this issue, and that the energy transition must be sustained over time in order to be viable. In this respect, she assessed the progressive decarbonisation carried out by Spain in recent years, with 90% of coal-fired power stations already closed. 

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REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER - Message of hope and peace in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, on 6 December 2015, as the 2015 World Climate Change Conference (COP21)
Insufficient for environmental associations and green

The Greens consider the agreement reached at the European summit to be insufficient, although they applaud the 15% increase initially proposed. Their parliamentary group in the European Parliament was one of the strongest advocates of raising the targets to 60%, although their lack of presence in the national governments debating these days in the European Council explains, in part, this agreement of minimums situated at 55%.

Similarly, associations such as Greenpeace have regretted that they did not want to be more ambitious, pointing out that the United Kingdom itself has proposed a 68% reduction in CO2 by 2030. Greenpeace also referred to some of the points contained in the agreement, which would mean a reduction of barely 50% in the most polluting sectors, such as energy, transport and industrial agriculture.