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Home NewsCNN The EU just unveiled one of the world’s most ambitious climate plans. But can it deliver?

The EU just unveiled one of the world’s most ambitious climate plans. But can it deliver?

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 06 FEB 24 09:28 ET

By Angela Dewan, CNN

(CNN) — The European Commission announced one of the world’s most ambitious goals to slashplanet-heating pollution on Tuesday, but protesting farmers and upcoming elections could threaten its success, analysts say.

The Commission — which is part of the European Union’s executive government — is backing a 90% cut in carbon emissions by 2040, from 1990 levels, taking a stance that is likely to set a benchmark for developed nations around the world.

EU Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra made the announcement in parliament, and a roadmap outlining how to reach the target was published by the Commission shortly after, touching on the future of fossil fuels, transportation and industry.

The announcement will kick off months of talks that could take up to a year before the European Parliament rubber stamps the target.

The Commission removed a separate target for climate action in the agricultural sector that had appeared in an earlier draft, obtained by CNN. It is a concession to European farmers who have been protesting for weeks, some of whom had explicitly rallied against climate policies they consider a threat to their livelihoods.

The earlier draft had called for a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, compared to 2015 levels.

Questions are now being raised over whether the EU can deliver, and not only because of its farmers. The 27-nation bloc already has a 55% emissions reduction target for 2030, but the Commission warned in December that member states were off track to reach that goal.

While there is fairly broad support for the new 90% target — which was the minimum recommended by the EU’s scientific advisory body — deliberations on how to achieve it may take a radical turn in June, when the EU holds electionsfor the European Parliament, the bloc’s legislative body.

The European Greens — a faction of environmentally conscious lawmakers from several countries — are expecting big losses in the vote, after making sweeping gains in the 2019 election.

Conservative and far-right parties are forecast to snap up many of those lost seats, putting the EU’s more ambitious climate goals at risk.

A new-look parliament might choose to keep the 90% goal, said Manon Dufour, executive director of the climate think tank E3G’s Brussels office, but there will likely be sticking points over issues like agriculture and when to ban the sale of combustion engine cars.

“This might be a bit of a new world that we are entering, where the parliament might not be themost progressive institution, which has been the status quo until now,” Dufour told CNN. “Of course, the political makeup of the European Parliament will have an impact on European action across the board, whether it’s on markets, or foreign policy, or climate.”

One of the biggest changes that a more conservative EU parliament might see is more resistance to increased regulation, Dufour said, particularly outright bans.

“We’re looking at a European Parliament that is more in favor of regulatory freedom for member states,” Dufour said. “So that could also impact some of the policies going forward, being more skeptical of environmental policies and climate policies.”

Already, the EU’s center-right alliance, the European People’s Party (EPP), is seeking to roll back key elements of the EU’s broaderGreen Deal, such as a ban on the sale of combustion engine cars by 2035, aimed at phasing in electric vehicles more widely.

The EPP is pitching itself as the champion of farmers ahead of the June election and has been vocal in its opposition to the EU’s environmental policies in agriculture.

Bas Eickhout, who was elected to co-lead the European Greens alliance in parliament at the weekend, accepts the Greens are likely to lose seats in June, and that may weaken EU climate action.

“It’s clear that we will be challenged this campaign,” said Eickhout, who is also a Dutch politician. In 2019, green issues were a priority for many voters,he said. “It was a kind of climate election,” he told CNN.

The Greens had been successful in achieving a strong climate agenda through the EU parliament, he added. “And now there’s a bit of a pushback on it.”

Eickhout said that the EU’s climate program had, at times, failed to be inclusive of everyday Europeans, including farmers.

“It’s clear that there needs to be a more sustainable model for agriculture, but we also understand why farmers feel how they [do] with their backs against the wall,” Eickhout said. “If you say you have to change your entire agriculture system, of course you get resistance. I would also resist, especially if I’m not even sure I can make a living out of it now.”

The Greens will campaign in the upcoming elections for even more ambitious climate targets, including reaching net zero by 2040, 10 years before the current goal. But it will also seek to include more social policy in the Green Deal, the EU’s overarching climate plan.

Linda Kalcher, executive director of the Brussel-based climate think tank Strategic Perspectives, is more optimistic. She said new conservative or even far-right lawmakers may also back someambitious climate policies because so many make sense in terms of economics and security, as well.

Kalcher said that recent years had shown that economics and energy security were boosting the green transition, rather than climate policy alone.

“We clearly saw that the recovery has been green because that was the best opportunity to really make sectors thrive and create additional jobs in response to the pandemic. We also saw that in response to the war in Ukraine, leaders were increasing renewable energy targets and energy efficiency targets.”

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EU climate plan

**This image is for use with this specific article only** Dutch politician Bas Eickhout delivering a speech after being elected to co-lead the European Greens Party for the upcoming European elections, in Lyon, France, on February 3, 2024.

Olivier Chassignole/AFP/Getty Images

06 Feb 24

EU climate plan

**This image is for use with this specific article only** An aerial view shows a flooded pig farm and surrounding fields in Lugo, Italy on May 18, 2023, after heavy rains caused flooding.

Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

06 Feb 24

EU climate plan

**This image is for use with this specific article only** European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaking during a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on February 6, 2024.

Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

06 Feb 24

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