It’s time to put climate targets first

(EurActiv, 29 Apr 2021) Legally binding reduction targets for member states should be the unequivocal starting point of making EU laws fit for new EU climate targets. Based on a new distribution formula, national targets should continue until climate neutrality is achieved in 2050, argue Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf, Michał Kaminski, and András Huszár.

Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf is the head of International and European Governance at the Ecologic Institute; Michał Kaminski is the CEO of 300Gospodarka, András Huszár is the CEO of the Green Policy Center.

EU climate policy revolves around many things, but it has a centre of gravity: legally binding reduction targets. Since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, reduction targets have taken centre stage in EU climate policymaking.

For the EU, reduction targets will continue – the new 2030 and 2050 climate neutrality targets were adopted last week. But it is not certain whether member states will remain obliged by individual targets after 2030. Some players want to replace them by expanding emission trading to road traffic and buildings.

This is a tempting proposition. Nobody wants a new round of all-night target negotiations with an uncertain outcome. But abandoning legally binding reduction targets would be a mistake. At a moment when the EU is significantly increasing its climate ambitions, the EU climate architecture must be strengthened, not weakened.

There are at least four reasons why national reduction targets should be the starting point for the revision of EU climate policy:

The first reason is that EU climate policy has many players, but no player is as important as the member states themselves. They are the legislators and implementers of EU law. Without them, very little works in the EU, and against them nothing is possible. EU climate targets can only be achieved by them.

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EurActiv, 29 Apr 2021: It’s time to put climate targets first