(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to build momentum within the European Union about moving toward adopting a goal for zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century.
Germany, which is Europe’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, is asking heads of EU states to endorse further work on how to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. That would be the first time leaders mention the date in a political statement and will help build the case for action.
Merkel “made it clear that we want a discussion about how we can be climate neutral in Germany by 2050 -- and that also goes for Europe,” her spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday, reiterating the substance of a German document seen by Bloomberg. EU leaders may not yet be ready to give their final endorsement to the long-term climate strategy but “the question of how we get to greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050 must be resolved this year,” he said.
Germany and other wealthier EU nations pushing for a net-zero target are meeting resistance from a handful of countries, especially Poland and Bulgaria, that are concerned tightening limits on fossil fuels will damage their economies. The political challenge for Merkel this week to persuade all member states to endorse a date into their political statement after the two-day summit starting on Thursday in Brussels.
The issue highlights political sensitivity surrounding the topic, with nations divided over the pace they should pursue emissions cuts and which energy sources and technologies should be encouraged. At least 17 countries, including France, Spain, Denmark and Sweden, have already indicated their support for the EU target of zeroing in on emissions by 2050.
It was first outlined by the European Commission in November and aimed at showing how determined the bloc is to honor the Paris Agreement on climate change, even as President Donald Trump sought to take the U.S. out of the 2015 deal.
To enshrine the target in law, the first step is to get a political nod from EU heads of state. Opponents of a quick decision are led by Poland and Bulgaria. The latest version of a draft summit statement, which may still change during the talks on Thursday night, calls for finalizing “guidance” on the long-term strategy by the end of this year.
For Merkel, the heat is on to speed up Germany’s own drive to cut emissions. The opposition Greens have surged past Merkel’s bloc of Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union to garner the most support among the electorate, according to recent polls. Merkel told her caucus this month that the government can no longer afford an “easy-peasy” approach to tackling pollution.
Under the Paris deal, Germany set itself the goal of reducing CO2 output by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. Targeting net-zero emissions by the middle of the century would imply tighter limits than already is planning. And for now, Germany’s record in reducing emissions is short of the goal. By next year, the country may have cut emissions by just 32%, according to government figures.
--With assistance from Alexander Weber and Iain Rogers.
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