Commission sets 90 per cent target for greenhouse gas reduction by 2040

The European Commission wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 90 per cent by 2040, compared to 1990 levels. Specific legislation to achieve the goal will only be proposed after the elections in June.

With its climate law, Europe already has firm targets to reduce its emissions. It must achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with a reduction of at least 55 per cent by 2030 as an interim target. This is the basis of the Fit for 55 package of legislation. The climate law also requires the Commission to set a target for 2040.

Based on a previous report by an independent scientific advisory board, the Commission is now opting for 90 per cent. However, president Ursula von der Leyen’s team is doing this in the form of a recommendation, with a legislative proposal the responsibility of the next Commission.

"With the right policies and support, the agriculture sector can also play a role in the transition"

Before that happens, public debate is needed, the Commission believes. A statement refers to a “balanced and cost-effective” contribution from all sectors. The overarching Green Deal – the set of policies designed to realise Europe’s climate ambitions – should be an “industrial decarbonisation deal”.

The Commission is also considering farmers, who took to the streets in several countries last week to protest against European climate policies, among other issues.

“With the right policies and support, the agriculture sector can also play a role in the transition, while ensuring sufficient food production in Europe, securing fair incomes and providing other vital services such as enhancing the capacity of soils and forests to store more carbon,” a statement said. 

'Out of touch'

The key condition for reaching the new target is the full implementation of the Fit for 55 legislation, and thus achieving a 55 per cent emission reduction by 2030. The Flemish part of Belgium’s national plan to reach this target was only finalised last year. Environment minister Zuhal Demir, of Flemish nationalists N-VA, said the Commission should suspend new targets and focus on existing commitments. 

“Anyone who just keeps going along with the European auction of climate percentages is out of touch with the people,” she said. “The European train roars on in its parallel world, further and further away from the people.” According to Demir, climate adaptation and space for water should be the “real” priorities.

In the European Parliament, Tom Vandenkendelaere of Flemish Christian democrats CD&V is also critical, particularly of the timing. “The European Commission is needlessly poking fun at farmers,” he said. “The European People’s Party has long been calling for breathing space so farmers can meet Europe’s sustainability targets. However, this sends a confusing signal to the agricultural sector.”


A farmer throws a tire at a protest in the European district in Brussels, organised by several agriculture unions from Belgium and other European countries, 1 February 2024 © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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