Media Briefing: European Green Deal must deliver on the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement

Climate action

Under the Paris Agreement, all countries are required to update their 2030 climate pledges next year, latest by the UN Climate Conference, COP26 which is taking place in Glasgow in November 2020. Current pledges, including the EU’s shockingly low -40% emission reduction target for 2030, will – if fully implemented – lead to a world 3.2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, according to the recent UNEP Emissions Gap Report[1]. 

In this context, the European Commission’s communication on the European Green Deal  on 11 December is vitally important to provide a plan to increase the EU’s 2030 climate target in early 2020 and ensure its leadership role in international climate negotiations. In a leaked draft however, the Commission is intending to postpone the proposal for a new EU 2030 climate target until October 2020, far too late to enable EU Member States to agree on the target before COP26.

Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe said: “The recently leaked draft of the European Green Deal shows that the Commission has already forgotten their promises in the European Parliament to ramp up the 2030 climate target in the first 100 days in office. If the Commission fails to keep its promise, the EU will be one of the countries to fail to implement the Paris Agreement and tackle the Climate Emergency.”

Why is it important to increase the EU’s 2030 climate target?

By adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015, the world, including EU countries, decided to pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. Nevertheless, countries’ current commitments, including the EU’s climate target to reduce its emissions to at least 40% by 2030, are projected to only limit warming at best to 3.2°C.

In 2015, while adopting the Paris Agreement, all countries knew that their commitments were falling short of the 1.5°C objective of the Agreement and they promised to update their pledges in 2020, latest by the UN Climate Conference, COP26 which is taking place in Glasgow in November 2020. 

The new Commission has promised to make the fight against the climate crisis its number one priority. It is also expected that the Commission proposes the increase of the EU’s 2030 climate target first to 50% and later to 55% in 2021. Wouldn’t it be enough to tackle the climate crisis and ramp up climate ambition?

No, it will not be as both the timeline and the level of ambition are problematic. The leaked draft shows that the increase of the 2030 climate target which was promised to happen in the new Commission’s first 100 days, will be delayed until October 2020.

If the Commission sticks to this timeline they will de facto confirm the EU’s  intention to not meet the UN deadline. The new Commission would thus send a devastating signal across the world and would severely undermine European leadership and credibility in defending the principles and objectives of the Paris Agreement as well as downgrade the importance of COP26.

UN Environment in its latest Emissions Gap Report calls for annual emission reductions of 7.6% in order to reach the 1.5°C target. Applying this 7.6% reduction would require the EU to increase its 2030 target from 40% to 65% by 2030.

Why is timing so crucial to increase the EU’s 2030 climate target? How will it affect the international climate negotiations?

Timing is vital. Not only is the world running out of time to avoid potentially irreversible damage to the global ecosystem, big emitters would need a strong signal from the EU to join the momentum for a collective increase of global ambition. This is dearly needed as the EU alone will not be able to close the gap to the 1.5°C target.

Not meeting the deadline would be more than an international embarrassment for the EU, while taking away the chance from European countries to build up international momentum ahead of the Climate Conference.

In 2020, a unique sequence of events provides a perfect opportunity for the EU to trigger China towards increased climate action. In September 2020, the EU-China Summit in Leipzig, Germany, will bring together for the first time all EU Heads of State and Government and China’s president Xi Jingping. The Summit will take place just ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit in Kinming, China, in October 2020, and two months ahead of the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow. Waiting until October to only propose a new EU climate pledge would give up on this unique opportunity for the EU to translate increased domestic ambition to the global level.

The debate on climate neutrality is ongoing since more than a year and there is still no agreement. Is it realistic to expect the EU to increase its 2030 climate target in early 2020 and to meet the Paris Agreement timeline?

What matters for keeping the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement in reach is immediate short term action. Setting up an immediate and clear process to substantially increase the EU’s 2030 climate target is the core benchmark to judge the credibility of the new European Commission on climate action.

The European Parliament has recently declared a state of Climate Emergency and has repeatedly been calling on EU leaders to increase its 2030 climate target to at least 55% by 2030. An increasing number of Member States already support the increase of the 2030 climate target to -55% and have urged the new Commissioner Timmermans to do so in a joint letter.

At the same time, millions of citizens continue to take to the streets demanding immediate action and various European stakeholders, including European businesses,  trade unions and investors call on the Commission to ramp up the 2030 climate target to at least 55% as soon as possible.

The Commission should stop ignoring these calls and start focusing on the increase of the 2030 climate target which is much needed to address the Climate Emergency.



Goksen Sahin, CAN Europe Communications Coordinator,, +32 468 45 39 20

[1] UNEP Emission Gap Report 2019 can be dowloaded here

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 160 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 47 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.


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