The European Union’s executive arm has proposed a target to cut the bloc’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 90% but, after protests, backed away from a target for farmers to reduce their emissions.
Yesterday, the European Commission recommended a 90% cut on 1990 levels by 2040 to complement the existing targets to reduce net emissions 55% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
This is the lower end of the 90-95% range called for by the EU’s scientific climate advisers. But it was the most ambitious of the three targets the Commission was considering. The others were 80% and 85-90%.
After the EU elections in June, the next Commission will decide whether to accept this recommendation and work with member states and the EU parliament to turn it into law.
The recommendation drew a mixed reaction from campaigners. Jeroen Gerlag from Climate Group Europe said the EU had “boldly signalled its climate leadership” but Friends of the Earth’s Colin Roche said it “fails its historic responsiblity to tackle the climate crisis”.
While most major nations set goals to reduce emissions by 2030 and target dates to reach net zero, the European Union is the first to float a 2040 emissions reduction target.
The Commission backed away from spelling out how agriculture should contribute to the headline goal. A previous draft recommendation, seen by Euractiv and others, said that farming was “one of the core areas to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions” and “it should be possible” for farming to cut its emissions by at least 20% by 2040 compared to 2015.
This did not make it into the final document. Neither did a reference to applying carbon pricing to farming or to “healthier diets based on diversified protein intake”, a reference to eating less meat.
Marco Contiero, Greenpeace’s EU agriculture policy director accused the Commission of “ignoring scientific advice on helping farmers move away from overproduction of meat and dairy, [which] makes climate change worse”. Agriculture accounts for around 10% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.
This backtracking follows farmers’ protests across Europe against plans to protect nature and reduce emissions, with anger at several national governments’ plans to reduce taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels used in farming.
At a press conference yesterday, the EU’s lead climate diplomat Wopke Hoekstra was asked if backing down to protesting farmers gave them too much power. He replied that “we need to make sure that there is broad enough support to continue on this journey together”.
In 2022, farmers protests in Australia and New Zealand led to measures to tackle farming’s emissions being watered down and the farming lobby in Brazil has pushed against measures to stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.