In the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, the European Commission published last week what would have otherwise been a high-profile initiative: the launch of a cost-benefit analysis of increasing the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 in view of reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century.
The draft analysis, released on Thursday (19 March), is only at “inception” stage, but it does give an indication as to where the Commission is heading as it tries to steer the 27-member EU towards climate neutrality by 2050.
“Global warming has already reached 1°C and the world is currently not on track to achieve the Paris Agreement,” the document says, arguing that “EU leadership in 2020 is needed more than ever” to keep warming below 2°C.
“The EU’s ability to demonstrate the feasibility of a trajectory to climate neutrality and to manage a just transition will send a strong signal to other countries to follow suit,” the document argues.
To keep in line with the Paris goals, the European Commission has committed to raising the EU’s greenhouse gas reduction objective for 2030 – from a 40% cut in emissions to a 50 or 55% cut compared to 1990 levels.
The “impact assessment” study, launched last Thursday, will try to evaluate the pros and cons of choosing one option or the other and invites comments in view of the Commission’s final study, expected to be published in September.
Importantly, the Commission argues that ramping up climate ambition now would spread out costs over time, and “would result in a more gradual annual reduction path and distribution of efforts between now and climate neutrality in 2050”.
By contrast, delaying action would likely require a more brutal adjustment after 2030, even though it would ease the economic pain in the short term.
“The EU would need to eliminate more than half of its 1990 economy-wide emissions in only 2 decades after 2030 to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This is a much faster reduction in annual emissions than has been achieved so far and thus a greater transition challenge than in the prior four decades,” the document points out.
“Therefore, the initiative aims to assess what would be required to have a more balanced reduction pathway from 2020 to 2050 and thus redistribute in time the transition effort towards climate neutrality,” it says.