Spain, France, Italy, and nine more EU countries have decided to form a pressure block to try to get Europe to update its plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.
It's an opportune moment, just half a year ahead of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of the year.
The EU has already committed to the Paris Agreement as a block, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels. But the 40% target was set in 2014 and many countries understand that six years later there is room to present a more robust objective.
The block of 12 countries asked in a letter to the Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, to expedite the procedures for Brussels to present as soon as possible, and as late in June 2020, the new goal, which must be between 50% and 55% cut.
In the letter, the environment ministers of the 12 countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Holland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden) argue that if the EU presents a more ambitious plan other countries will follow the same path. In other words, the European countries want to offer tangible climate leadership -- at a time where the climate commitments of the US and China are questionable at best.
“If the fact that the EU goes in front is going to have an effect, then it not only needs to be before the summit, but also well in advance,” Dan Joergensen, Denmark’s climate minister and initiator of the letter, told Reuters.
The letter arrives in an important week for Europe's position in the fight against climate change. On Wednesday, Timmermans, in charge of climate policies in the EU Commission, is expected to present new legislation for climate change.
The EU Commission and the group of countries are aligned on the need to increase the targets to reach zero net emissions in 2050. But in December, when all EU countries started discussing the new target, a blocking position led by Poland emerged.
Poland, whose electricity mostly comes from coal, finally agreed to set the goal in 2050, although with a footnote that said they are not "in a position at this time" to "ensure the fulfillment of the objective." That means the negotiation to have a more ambitious goal will likely be a difficult one.
The Paris Agreement, which dates back to 2015, states that the signatory should update its climate goal at some point this year. That process is expected to culminate in the climate summit that will be held in November in Glasgow (United Kingdom). But none of the big economies have updated their goals yet, and almost all countries are failing on their agreed pledges -- some are failing spectacularly.
Based on the current climate pledges, the world is set to face global warming between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius, failing to meet the 2 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement. If that happens, the consequences will be devastating for the entire planet -- whether we like it or not.