EU climate leadership in doubt as bloc set to miss 2030 goal

A layer of smog covered the city of Brussels in 2014. The European Union said Wednesday it will miss its targets for reducing planet-warming greenhouse gases by 2030 unless member states make a greater effort than they have so far.
A layer of smog covered the city of Brussels in 2014. The European Union said Wednesday it will miss its targets for reducing planet-warming greenhouse gases by 2030 unless member states make a greater effort than they have so far.Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP/File 2014/Associated Press

MADRID — The European Union said Wednesday that it will likely miss its target for reducing greenhouse gases by 2030, dealing a blow to the bloc’s efforts to be a leader in the fight against climate change.

The European Environment Agency said existing measures put the EU on course to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming pollutants by 30 percent in the next decade compared with 1990 levels. Currently, the 28-nation bloc aims for a reduction of 40 percent by 2030, and some leaders have called for this target to be raised to 55 percent, with a long-term goal of ending virtually all new emissions by 2050.


“Recent trends highlight a slowing down of progress in areas such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, industrial emissions, waste generation, improving energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy,” the agency said in a report. “Looking ahead, the current rate of progress will not be enough to meet 2030 and 2050 climate and energy targets.”

The report was released as officials from almost 200 countries meet in Madrid for UN climate talks. The EU’s new executive Commission is expected to present its long-term plan for tackling global warming — dubbed the European Green Deal — next week.

Environmental campaigners said the EU should step up its efforts to ensure that the aim of the 2015 Paris climate accord of keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century remains possible.

“Current EU leaders are the last generation that can prevent the climate breakdown,” said Wendel Trio, director of the campaign group Climate Action Network Europe.

Trio noted that the European Parliament recently declared a symbolic “climate emergency.”

“Citizens want them to act now, and not in 30 years,” he said.

The European Environment Agency report said that “there is still a chance to meet the longer-term goals and objectives for 2030 and 2050” if countries ratchet up their efforts, adding that this will require tackling politically sensitive issues such as fossil fuel subsidies.


A separate study published Wednesday by a group of international scientists found that both the European Union and the United States saw emissions drop 1.7 percent from 2018 to 2019, but China saw a 2.6 percent increase and India had a 1.8 percent rise.

In Madrid Wednesday, police say one person was arrested after dozens of activists broke into a fashion store in the central part of the city to protest about the garment industry’s impact on the environment.

In a live online video, the Extinction Rebellion group showed how a dozen activists used glue to attach their hands to the windows inside a Zara store, a brand owned by Spain’s fashion giant Inditex.

The protesters had signs reading “The Earth pays for fast fashion,” and “Green words, toxic truths.”

Police could be seen removing the activists one by one, as onlookers stopped to take photos.

Police said 37 protesters had their identities screened and that one was arrested for disobeying police orders.

Social justice and environmental activists say they want a rally this week in Madrid to cap a year of massive marches demanding those in power take greater and fairer action against global warming.

“2019 has been the year of the awakening of civil society and the youth who have stood up to urge politicians and business heavyweights for more ambition against the climate emergency,” said Pablo Chamorro, a spokesman for March for Climate.


He added that “at least 100,000” people were expected to join Friday evening’s demonstration.

The march has been hastily organized in Madrid after a United Nations-sponsored global climate summit moved there from Chile. Activists will also hold a protest in the Chilean capital, Santiago.

The COP25 meeting aims to increase ambition among nations in averting the worst consequences of increasing temperatures.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis is questioning if there’s the “far-sighted” political will to deal with climate change.

In a message to the climate talks, Francis called climate change a “challenge of civilization” for the common good. He adds that, “sadly,” awareness is still weak about the need to work tougher for “our common home.”

The Vatican made public on Wednesday the message by the pope, who has made caring for the environment a hallmark of his papacy.

Francis said that what’s needed is “clear, far-sighted, and strong political will.” But he says “we must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will” to courageously allocate the “human, financial and technological” resources needed to mitigate climate change’s negative effects.