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Europe’s climate policies are getting an upgrade

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BRUSSELS: The European Union is set to kick-start discussions next week on how quickly it will cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.

Already well on the way to meeting its current climate target for 2030, the EU now wants to make that goal even more ambitious, to get on track for its flagship plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

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The EU's executive commission will propose a new 2030 emissions target next week, paving the way for talks between member states and European Parliament, which must approve the goal but are split over how ambitious it should be.

Here's how the new goal will be decided, how it holds up against climate science, and what it means for global efforts to curb climate change.

50 PER CENT OR 55 PER CENT?

The commission will propose one of two options for the new EU target – a 50 per cent or a 55 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, against 1990 levels. The EU's current 2030 goal is a 40 per cent cut.

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It is expected to choose the 55 per cent goal, which about 12 of the EU's 27 members say they support, most of them wealthier countries.

Poorer, eastern countries that rely on coal-fired power are more apprehensive, worried by the investments needed to achieve the goal, and the economic fallout for workers and companies in fossil fuel-heavy regions.

The EU plans to spend €550 billion on green goals by 2027, however researchers say more than €3 trillion in low-carbon investments would be needed to reach a 50 per cent reduction target.

The commission will publish an economic assessment of the new target next week. The new 2030 target will set the stage for reforms of EU policies including its carbon market, finance rules and taxation, to help deliver green goals.

OR 65 PER CENT?

Lawmakers drafting the European Parliament position are eyeing an even more ambitious 60 per cent or 65 per cent emissions cut by 2030.

Parliament's environment committee will vote on Thursday on which 2030 target they want inserted into the EU's climate law. A full parliament vote will come later.

Ultimately, a lack of support from national governments makes 65 per cent unlikely. But, by aiming high, lawmakers hope to ensure the goal gets watered down less when member states, the commission and parliament seek a compromise on the final target.

WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?

Globally, the world should cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 40 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030 against 2010 levels, which works out to a 20 per cent to 35 per cent reduction from 1990 levels, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

That goal is designed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and avert the worst impacts from climate change. There isn't much wiggle room. Already, global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree Celsius on average, and countries' current efforts would likely fail to avoid another 2 degrees Celsius of warming.

In Europe, scientists say the EU will struggle to reach its 2050 target of net zero emissions unless it achieves at least a 55 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030.

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