2030 climate action: EU environment ministers can signal need for more

Posted on 05 October 2021

With citizens alarmed at rising energy bills, and floods and wildfires ever more frequent, far more is needed to ensure a science-based and socially fair shift to climate neutrality.
What’s happening?

EU Environment Ministers are meeting on 6 October 2021 to begin discussing some of a series of future EU climate policies. 

In July, the European Commission made a set of ‘Fit for 55’ proposals on climate action up to 2030, which the EU Council and Parliament must agree their positions on. 

At their meeting, ministers are set to focus on the revision of the Emissions Trading System (ETS), annual national emissions reduction targets (the ’Effort Sharing Regulation’), land use and forestry (‘LULUCF’) and the new social climate fund, which would help support vulnerable citizens in case of impacts from climate action. 

Ministers will also discuss the recent rise in gas and electricity prices. 

Why does it matter?

The EU Commission’s proposals are bolder than what had gone before. But with citizens alarmed at rising energy bills, and with floods and wildfires ever more frequent, it’s clear that far more is needed to ensure a science-based and socially fair shift to climate neutrality.

EU Member States - and MEPs - have a key role to play. Ministers must push for higher climate and renewable energy targets, ending free pollution under the ETS and ensuring sustainable use of ETS revenues, fixing the EU’s bioenergy policies and ensuring the entire package is socially fair.

Imke Lübbeke, head of climate and energy at WWF European Policy Office said:
“Stronger climate action is critical, and so is ensuring people can heat their homes this winter. Ministers must show they have understood both the need to massively improve the Commission’s climate plans and to make them socially fair. What’s on the table right now is a start, but it’s nowhere near enough.” 

What is WWF calling for?

> An overall emissions reduction target of at least 65% by 2030, on 1990 levels (the Commission proposed a 55% ‘net’ cut)

ETS revision

> End free pollution permits and switch to full auctioning of ETS allowances from 2023 (the Commission proposed 2030, and even suggested this could be pushed back to 2035 in its proposal for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism). 
> Use revenues from newly auctioned allowances to support industrial decarbonisation via dedicated ETS funds - the Innovation and Modernisation funds - with green conditions attached. 
> Increase the ETS emissions reduction target to 70% by 2030 (the Commission proposed 61%). This should be achieved by increasing the amount of allowances taken off the market every year (the ‘linear reduction factor’) to 4.2% by 2023, removing at least 250 million emissions from the market by 2023, and ensure 24% of surplus allowances are temporarily removed into the ‘market stability reserve’, and the bar for defining what qualifies as ‘surplus’ is lowered.
> Require ETS revenues to all be spent on climate action, as proposed by the Commission, but with ‘climate action’ clearly defined and fossil fuels excluded - and without the Commission being able to later transfer them into the EU budget for uses like servicing debt
> All maritime shipping to come under the ETS (the Commission proposed only half of external to the EU voyages) and by 2023 (the Commission proposed 2026)

Renewable energy directive

> A renewable energy target for 2030 of 50% (the Commission proposed 40%) 
> A full overhaul of the rules on bioenergy - the Commission's proposal did nothing to improve the current criteria, which incentivise the burning of trees and crops for energy, despite that being something that will increase emissions compared to fossil fuels and accelerate the pace of climate change.


> A target of 600 million tonnes of carbon to be absorbed by forests and land by 2030 (the Commission proposed 310 million tonnes) 
> A firewall between emissions absorbed by the land sector and emissions put into the atmosphere - one cannot ‘cancel’ or offset the other

Social Climate Fund

> The impacts of the social climate fund proposal must be fully assessed in the context both of a new ETS for transport and buildings, and of the existing ETS and energy poverty.
> The fund needs stronger provisions for partnership and empowering people at local level. 
> Adequate resourcing: all revenues from an ETS for transport and buildings must be used for socially fair climate action, as well as some of the revenues from the ‘main’ ETS which covers other sectors like power and industry. 
> A fair distribution between and within Member States, with safeguards to ensure revenues are used in a socially fair and climate optimal way.
> Fossil fuel investments to be excluded from the fund, which should be used to help the worst-off as we move towards net zero emissions.

Sarah Azau
Communications manager
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 473 57 31 37
Dog swimming at Cacau Pirêra, a village located on the right shore of the Negro river, in front of the city of Manaus, which is also suffering the impacts of the historic flood.
© Marcio James / WWF-Brazil