EU aims to be 'climate neutral' by 2050

The EU has outlined an ambitious plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions, albeit one pegged to a 32-year timetable. The non-binding proposals go further than goals member states are already struggling to keep.

The European Commission released a proposal on Wednesday calling for emissions in the bloc to be drastically cut to net zero by 2050 — just days before the COP24 climate summit in Poland.

Although EU leaders believe the goal is achievable, their plan is far more ambitious than national climate targets set by the EU's 28 member states and would require all members to be on board.

What the EU is planning to do:

  • A drastic reduction in fossil fuel use for electricity production, aiming for 80 percent of EU electricity to hail from renewable sources by the 2050 deadline. 
  • Investments in clean energy should increase from 2 percent to 2.8 percent of the EU's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — which would amount to an additional €175 billion to €290 billion ($197 billion to $327 billion) per year in spending.
  • Low- and zero-emission vehicles should be promoted as well as a switch from fossil fuels to net zero carbon fuels.
  • Promoting a shift to low-carbon public transportation options as well as promoting cycling and walking.
  • Improving insulation in homes and other buildings to reduce the amount of energy used for heating.
  • The Commission's proposal is not binding, but could increase pressure on member states that have resisted setting stricter targets for cutting emissions.

What is 'climate neutral'? The net zero emissions goal means that any greenhouse gases emitted in the EU would either need to be absorbed by forests or by new technologies that will remove carbon from the atmosphere. This second category is particularly difficult to reliably predict and model. 

Now live
01:21 mins.
DW News | 28.11.2018

UN: Nations falling further behind Paris temperature goal

'Status quo is not an option'

Miguel Arias Canete, the EU's Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, urged national governments and businesses within the bloc to get on board with the Commission's proposal.

"True, there are many challenges on the road," Arias Canete said. "But status quo is not an option."

Nature and Environment | 05.12.2018

The EU's 2050 proposal was welcomed by environmental groups, but the Climate Action Network (CAN) warned that more needs to be done in the short-term.

"As a matter of urgency, the EU needs to massively increase the 2030 target," CAN Europe director Wendel Trio said. "It is the short term emission cuts that will make or break our response to climate change."

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 10: Upgrade lightbulbs

You just bought a fancy lamp? Make it cooler with efficient lightbulbs. This is one of the small actions that make a difference in the long-term - and let's be honest, it's not a big effort. Some LED bulbs consume up to 90 percent less than traditional ones.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 9: Hang laundry to dry

In cold or rainy countries, the task might be challenging - but these challenges are nothing compared to the worst consequences of climate change.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 8: Recycling

Recycling has become normal behavior for thousands of people around the world. It definitely contributes to making a better world - but unfortunately, it is not enough.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 7: Wash clothes on cold

Worried about your clothes shrinking in hot water? Here another reason to keep washing with cold water: Since it avoids turning on the water heater, cold-water washing also produces less greenhouse gas emissions.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 6: Drive a hybrid

Until you are ready to get rid of your car completely, you could move to a hybrid electric car. But beware: The electricity that powers it is probably still coming from dirty fossil fuels.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 5: Switch to a vegetarian diet

Beef production is the largest driver of tropical deforestation worldwide, with soy production closely following - mainly to feed animals. The carbon footprint of a meat-based diet is almost double that of a vegetarian one. Even reducing the amount of meat you eat makes a difference.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 4: Buy green energy

Renewable energies are the new trend - but we are still largely dependent on fossil fuels such as coal. In countries like Germany, you can choose your energy provider - among some that draw from renewable sources.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 3: Cancel one trans-Atlantic flight

Air travel is a major challenge when it comes to tackling climate change. Policy-makers are exploring ways to reduce the climate impact of flights - but in the meantime, you can start thinking twice before taking a plane. Particularly to cross the pond.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 2: Don't use a car

Getting rid of your car is the second-most effective action you can take to tackle climate change. And riding your bike also helps keep you fit!

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 1: Have one less child

Giving birth to a new person consuming and polluting at the current rate of people in industrialized countries is the worst thing you can do for the planet, according to the study. But if you start now with the other nine actions, your kids might be able to live in a better world.

Germany stumbling in climate goals: Although all EU member states signed on to the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming, they're not united on how to do so. Germany is currently expected to fall short of its 2020 emissions goals, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has resisted raising the country's emissions target for 2030.

On Wednesday, Germany announced that it is doubling its contribution to the United Nation's climate change fund in an effort to boost environmentally-friendly measures in developing countries. Berlin, meanwhile, has resisted higher emissions cuts on cars.

What happens next: The EU's member states are due to submit their draft national climate plans to the European Commission by the end of 2018. The proposal is also likely to be a topic of conversation at the UN's COP24 climate summit in Poland which begins next week.

Now live
01:24 mins.
Business | 10.10.2018

German carmakers slam EU's new CO2 targets

rs/msh  (AP, AFP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Related content

Related Subjects