BRUSSELS (February 6, 2024) — Today the European Commission announced a new climate target aimed at cutting the European Union’s greenhouse emissions by 90% by 2040, from 1990 levels.  

The target aligns with the 90%-95% emissions target recommended by the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change. This intermediary step bridges the gap between the EU’s existing goals to cut net emissions 55% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

Following is a statement by Stientje van Veldhoven, Vice President and Regional Director for Europe, World Resources Institute: 

“The EU’s new climate target sets a strong north star for where the region should be by 2040 to reach net zero by 2050 and maintain a livable future. The sooner we decarbonize, the better, so the EU should double down on climate and cut emissions faster, getting to 90% even before the 2040 deadline.  

“Achieving this target will require each EU country to strengthen its own national climate plan and get to work on swiftly implementing them. Today, they do not all pass the bar. These plans should align with the goals countries agreed to at COP28, especially moving away from fossil fuels. And the EU cannot substitute carbon sinks such as forests in place of decarbonizing its heaviest emitting sectors. 

“The EU is right to recognize the intertwined importance of farmers’ livelihoods and the agriculture sector in slashing the region’s emissions. As the recent farmers’ protests across Europe have shown, governments will need to build greater trust and collaboration with farmers to enact these changes, ensuring these are good for farmers, climate and nature at the same time. 

“Notably, including agriculture in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme would be a positive step, as this could provide more finance for farmers committed to sustainable agricultural practices. But the EU has also left open a significant role for biofuels, which is an unwise use of land that is desperately needed for food and storing carbon, while doing little to curb climate change. Globally, we are already 600 million hectares short of land needed to feed a growing population — we should not increase that shortage by inefficiently using our land.  

“Now, the EU should lead the way by being one of the first parties to submit a new national climate plan (NDC) to the UN, which are due in early 2025 — one that could set the benchmark for other countries. This plan should set out the steps along the way needed to achieve the 2040 target, putting forth a strong 2035 emissions target and revised 2030 target, and actionable plans to transform sectors.”