Smoke and steam billow from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant powered by lignite, operated by Polish utility PGE, in Rogowiec, Poland, November 22, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

 

STRASBOURG, (Reuters): The European Commission is poised to recommend on Tuesday the EU reduces its net greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040, a target that will test political appetite to continue Europe's ambitious fight against climate change ahead of EU elections.

Drafts of the Commission recommendation, seen by Reuters, show the EU will endorse the 90% target for net greenhouse gas cuts compared with 1990 levels.

The 2040 goal aims to keep European Union countries on track between the EU's existing 2030 climate goal and its long-term aim to have net zero emissions by 2050 and end Europe's ongoing contribution to climate change.

Drawn up amid farmers' protests across Europe and political pushback on some EU green laws, the EU plan is set to focus on preserving public support and European industries.

"To continue the European Green Deal into the decade up to 2040, extra focus will be needed on the enabling conditions for businesses and citizens to master the transition," said a draft of the EU plan, seen by Reuters, which could change before it is published.

"Climate action has to take everybody along," it said.

Tuesday's proposal will kick off the political debate on the target, but it will be up to a new EU Commission, formed after EU elections in June, to make a final legal proposal.

Europe's climate agenda is entering a difficult political phase, as it begins to touch sensitive sectors, such farming, and traditional industries face fierce green tech competition from China.

The draft said agriculture would need to cut non-CO2 emissions 30% by 2040 from 2015 levels, but EU officials on Monday indicated this target for the politically tense sector may be scrapped in the final document.

A second EU document, also due to be published on Tuesday, will outline plans to capture and store hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 - one of many areas requiring huge investment in new technologies.

The 2040 target would transform Europe's energy mix, with coal-fuelled power phased out and overall fossil fuel use reduced by 80%, replaced with renewable and nuclear power.

A 90% emissions cut is just inside the 90-95% range recommended by the EU's official climate science advisors.

The draft also laid out the cost of failing to tackle climate change, in the form of more destructive extreme weather - which, it said, could unleash additional costs of 2.4 trillion euros by 2050 if global warming was not limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The EU had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 33% in 2022, from 1990 levels.