The European Union just proposed a raft of new national emissions reductions targets after a heated round of negotiations in Brussels. The WSJ reports:
The targets have been calculated based on the countries’ gross domestic product per capita, their size and the share of agriculture in the overall economy. They range from 0% for the bloc’s poorest nation Bulgaria and 40% for Luxembourg and Sweden, which are among the wealthiest EU countries.
The European Commission notably set out targets for the UK, despite a vote last month to leave the EU. As the WSJ explains, Brexit doesn’t necessarily mean Britain won’t be adhering to climate targets:
According to the commission’s proposal, which still requires the endorsement of EU governments and the European Parliament, the U.K. would need to reduce its CO2 emissions in transport, agriculture and buildings by 37% by 2030.
The U.K. government hasn’t yet decided whether it will stick to the EU climate goals after it leaves the bloc, but EU officials are confident that London won’t U-turn on this policy after having been one of the main advocates for ambitious climate goals at the Paris conference last year.
Brussels may be “confident” that the UK won’t ditch these emissions goals, but given the recent ministry shake-up undertaken by the new prime minister Theresa May (that included the dissolution of the department of energy and climate change), that is far from a sure bet.
So what happens if the UK pulls out of these commitments, then? Well, as one Eurocrat put it, that would mean “one rich country less to take on some of the burden from the Poles,” referring to the disparity in the stringency of targets between European countries. Poland, for example, remains heavily dependent on coal as both an extractive industry and as an energy source, so its national targets are necessarily smaller than, say, its renewables-crazed western neighbor Germany (a fact that isn’t lost on the nations doing the heavy lifting, many of whom have been quite vocal with their displeasure).
Setting binding targets for its member nations was always going to be a highly politicized and contentious process, but Brexit is adding a new layer of uncertainty into that mix. The result is a harder slog for the world’s most vocally green continent to mitigate climate change. The EU is finding out that it’s one thing to tentatively agree to an international climate deal, however watered down that agreement may be, but quite another altogether to actually implement changes, especially as new wrinkles (or tears, in this case) appear.