The European Parliament voted for a more ambitious target of 60% carbon emissions reductions by 2030, moving closer to science and away from politics. But this still falls short of what is necessary to fight the climate crisis, scientists and NGOs warn.

In what many hailed as a ‘historic moment’ in Brussels politics, MEPs approved a 60% emissions reduction target to be achieved across Europe by 2030 this week. The vote followed parliamentary discussions on Europe’s first Climate Law, which was first unveiled by the European Commission in March this year.  

This week’s vote significantly improved the Commission’s most recent proposal for a 55% reduction target, and is in line with a previous vote by the Parliament’s Environment (ENVI) committee. However, it is still considerably lower than the 65% target originally put forward by MEP Jytte Guteland, which scientific evidence and civil society organisations support.

The vote comes after a dramatic week where conservative parties vowed to back the less ambitious target proposed by the Commission, raising concerns that the Parliament may eventually undermine climate action and credibility.

Beacon of hope

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) cautiously welcomed the vote, noting that even just a year ago such an achievement would have seemed impossible. Barbara Mariani, the group’s senior policy officer for climate and energy, called the vote “a beacon of hope for millions of young Europeans who have demanded their right to live in a healthy and safe planet.”

However, she also warned that a 60% reduction in emissions may “still not enough, as science reminds us that a 65% target to be achieved by 2030 is not only necessary, but also feasible.”

The ball is now in the court of EU member states. Heads of state will meet in the European Council next week to discuss the target, with a view to reaching a final position in December before starting the three-way discussions with the Parliament and the Commission in the new year.

Listen to science

“We urge EU governments to listen to science and ensure much more ambition on the EU target,” Mariani said.

On another positive note, the Parliament also voted against counting international carbon offsets towards the final target. This would have allowed the EU to consider the contribution of environmental projects, such as tree planting in developing countries, as a  way of reaching its own climate goals. Green groups had previously dismissed the plan as nothing short of an accounting trick.

In December, the European Commission promised to deliver an unprecedented set of measures to boost climate action. The Climate Law is a cornerstone of the European Green Deal and was previously hailed as Europe’s “man on the moon moment.”

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