EU leaders fail to step up climate action, despite mass youth protests

Climate action

European Council conclusions on climate change adopted today fail to send a signal that the EU is willing to increase its weak climate targets, despite last week’s unprecedented mobilisation of youth across Europe calling for more action against climate change.

EU leaders failed to acknowledge that the EU’s climate targets are falling far short of what is needed to keep temperature rise to 1.5°C. They failed to mention the need to massively scale up the EU’s emission cuts by 2030. They failed to refer to the date for achieving climate neutrality, despite the ongoing negotiations on the EU’s long-term climate strategy, which makes the case for the EU to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

A coalition of countries including Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden wanted the EU to commit to cutting emissions to net zero by 2050, but their position was not included in the final text due to opposition of others, including Germany.

Commenting on the European Council conclusions, CAN Europe’s director Wendel Trio said:

“This position shows that EU leaders are out of touch with climate science and with their citizens. The growing pressure from European citizens, especially the hundreds of thousands of young people, who took to the streets last week to demand climate action deserves more urgency and seriousness. Recycling existing commitments over and over again is simply not acceptable”.

European leaders need to put climate action and the commitment to keep temperature rise below 1.5°C at the heart of future EU cooperation at the special EU Summit in Sibiu in May 2019, so that an agreement on the strategic long-term vision can be reached at the June European Council before the UN Secretary General Climate Summit in September 2019. This is when all countries are expected to put forward new commitments for more climate action, as requested by UN Secretary General António Guterres. Delaying this crucial decision would mean that the EU would come unprepared to the summit, undermining its position as a global leader on climate action.

Last week, the European Parliament endorsed the objective of climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and called for an increase of the EU’s 2030 climate target, urging EU leaders to do the same at the Sibiu summit in May.

To limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, the EU needs to fully decarbonize already by 2040 and significantly increase its 2030 target to at least 65% domestic greenhouse gas emission reductions, compared to 1990 levels.

In the run up to the European Council, a unique gathering of businesses, investor groups, local and regional authorities, trade unions and civil society groups, standing together as the Coalition for Higher Ambition, called upon EU leaders to endorse the objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest and raise the 2030 climate target accordingly.


Ania Drazkiewicz, CAN Europe Head of Communications,, +32 494 525 738

European Council conclusions:

Letter from the Coalition for Higher Ambition ahead of the March European Council:

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 150 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.


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