EU accused of climate accounting tricks

There’s some hocus-pocus going on with the emissions reduction numbers the European Union is proudly touting at the COP27 climate summit, climate campaigners allege.

The EU says it’s one of the few parties to the Paris Agreement to actually follow the rules and beef up its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) — U.N.-speak for the promises made under the 2015 pact. The bloc’s original proposal was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the end of the decade, but three new rule changes boost that to 57%.

But climate NGOs are lot more skeptical.

“Before the Climate Law, EU reduction targets were ‘gross,’ meaning they didn’t include removals from the land sink,” said Mark Preston Aragonès, policy adviser with Bellona, an industrial decarbonization NGO. “But now that there’s a net target, they can play around and pretend they’re doing more to cut emissions.”

He said a crucial flaw in how the EU estimates its new headline climate target of a 57% cut is that storing CO₂ through natural sinks, like soil and forests, is a less permanent form of climate action than cutting greenhouse gas emissions altogether. That’s because these ecosystems can be hit by natural disturbances, like fires, pests and drought, which reduces their absorption capacity.

The European Commission declined to specifically comment.

Even if the 57% reduction is real, that’s still not enough to hit the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5˚C, complained Chiara Martinelli, a director of CAN Europe, arguing the bloc should cut its emissions by 65% by the end of the decade.

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