Europe’s Net Zero Carbon Project

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Climate change on Earth is one of the biggest global threats we face today. In this context, the European Union (EU) is taking important steps to effectively combat climate change and build a sustainable future. The EU’s climate policies demonstrate a firm commitment to environmental challenges, focusing on sustainable development, energy efficiency and carbon reduction.

The EU’s main climate objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately limit global warming in the fight against climate change. To achieve these objectives, the EU has adopted various policies and measures. The EU’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 are entering a new era, focusing on the 2040 climate targets. Under this new era, their most important goal is to achieve “net zero” carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The EU aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the end of this decade, according to climate targets enacted three years ago. The EU reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent in 2022 compared to 1990 levels.[1]

Within these targets, the EU has identified the need for certain technologies. Against this backdrop, the EU adopted a Communication on Industrial Carbon Management, which provides details on how these technologies can contribute to reducing emissions by 90% by 2040 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050.[2] Industrial carbon management refers to a range of technologies that aim to capture or remove, transport and permanently store or utilize carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere. The Communication on Industrial Carbon Management sets out a comprehensive policy approach to achieve Europe’s climate goals.

It aims to reduce the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels by 80% and unleash low-carbon energy solutions such as renewable energy, nuclear power, energy efficiency, storage, decarbonization, geothermal and hydro.[3] The EU’s strategy to reach the 2040 target is shaped under the “Industrial Decarbonization Agreement”. This agreement aims to focus on industrial policies such as green energy, electrolysis, battery technology, electric vehicles, heat pumps, carbon capture and storage, circular economy. The EU plans to reach the 2040 targets by leveraging existing industrial strengths and creating healthy framework conditions for access to finance, skills, appropriate energy, etc.

The costs and human impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly large and visible. In the last five years alone, climate-related economic damage in Europe has been estimated at €170 billion.[4] High global warming could reduce the EU’s Gross Domestic Product by around 7% by the end of the century.[5] The energy sector is projected to reach full decarbonization shortly after 2040 based on all zero and low carbon energy solutions such as renewable energy, nuclear energy, energy efficiency.

“Based on the best available scientific data and a detailed impact assessment, the 2040 target should be a 90 percent emissions reduction compared to 1990 levels.” EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra said.

The announcements coincided with protests by dozens of farmers outside the EU Parliament over declining incomes, rising costs and increasingly onerous green regulations. The Commission has also been coy about its plans to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector.

Following street pressure and demands from the European Parliament, the Commission shelved plans to cut agricultural emissions by at least 30% over the next 25 years. The anger of farmers across the EU shows how politically tense the environmental issue has become. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also canceled a plan to halve the use of chemical pesticides by the end of this decade to address farmers’ concerns.

There is a clear backlash against the EU’s climate policies from manufacturers in the industrial sector. Many national leaders are now arguing for a “break” in the new environmental rules. Eleven EU countries, including France, Germany and Spain, have sent a united letter to Brussels urging that the transition to an “ambitious” 2040 target must be “fair and equitable” and that the most vulnerable citizens in particular must not be left behind.[6]

The new decade starting in Europe can be seen as the beginning of the next phase of the European Green Deal. A successful climate transition needs to go hand in hand with strengthened industrial competitiveness, especially in clean technology sectors. This EU industrial plan aims to leverage the EU’s clean tech industries and sustain public support for climate policy as the EU moves towards elections. The future enabling framework builds on the existing European Green Deal. Public investments should be well targeted with the right mix of grants, loans, equity, guarantees, advisory services and other public support.

The EU is taking a political stance on climate change. In this context, the European Commission’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% has become ambitious and will be discussed in the EU elections. The rise of the right wing in the EU Parliament will make the adoption of ambitious climate policies more difficult.

In conclusion, the EU recognizes climate change as one of the main global threats and is committed to building a sustainable future. Focusing on the 2040 climate targets, the EU is increasing its environmental responsibility by targeting a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 55%. The strategies adopted by the Industrial Carbon Management Communication aim to provide an effective response to CO2 emissions. However, the shelving of the 30% reduction target in emissions from the agricultural sector due to farmer protests poses an important test for the social participation and interaction dynamics of policies. The EU’s climate policies show that the 2040 target is a critical moment to measure the sustainability of political will and the capacity of social support in a context of increasing costs and human impacts.

1 “EU Recommends Ambitious 2040 Climate Target, Goes Light On Farming”, Aljazeera, (Date of Access: 07.02.2024).

[2] “Commission Sets Out How to Sustainably Capture, Store and Use Carbon to Reach Climate Neutrality By 2050”, European Commision, (Date of Access: 07.02.2024).

[3] “Frederic Simon, Welcome To The Next Phase Of The European Green Deal”, Euractiv,, (Date of Access: 08.02.2024).

[4] “Commission Presents Recommendation For 2040 Emissions Reduction Target to Set the Path to Climate Neutrality in 2050”, European Commision, (Date of Access: 07.02.2024).

[5] Same place.

[6] Same place.

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