European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen predicted the new target will be “too much for some and not enough for others," but she told lawmakers in her first State of the Union address that it should help the 27-nation EU achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
“Our economy and industry can manage this, and they want it, too," von der Leyen said as she set out her priorities while speaking in the European Parliament.
EU leaders agreed last year to make the bloc’s economy carbon-neutral by the middle of the century.
Von der Leyen said she wants 37% of the 750 billion-euro coronavirus recovery fund approved by EU countries to be spent on environmental objectives, adding that 30% of the fund should be raised through “green” bonds whose proceeds are meant to have a positive impact on the environment.
The EU also plans to dedicate a quarter of its budget to tackling climate change and to work to shift 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) in investment toward making the EU’s economy more environmentally friendly over the next 10 years.
According to the EU, its greenhouse gas emissions already decreased by 23% between 1990 and 2018, qa period when the economy grew by 61%.
World leaders agreed five years ago in Paris to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) by the end of the century. Scientists say countries will miss both of those goals by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to begin cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Von der Leyen also confirmed the EU is working on a kind of carbon tax aimed at avoiding a situation in which EU countries reduce emissions, but at the same time import goods embedded with CO2.
“Carbon must have its price because nature cannot pay this price anymore," she said.
While endorsing the idea of a “carbon border adjustment mechanism,” at EU borders, Green members of the European Parliament said the proposed 55% cut to emissions was not enough, pushing for a 65% reduction.
“Droughts & global fires show that we need more effort to limit #GlobalWarming," the Greens group wrote in a message posted on Twitter.
Environment organization Friends of the Earth was also critical, urging the EU to opt for a fossil-free economy “to avoid devastating warming."