The European Commission on Wednesday proposed new emission-cutting targets for EU countries in a bid to meet promises made under last year's Paris climate agreement, but environmentalists slammed the proposal as falling short and containing loopholes.
The Paris deal is meant to keep global temperature rise and climate change in check by limiting emissions into the Earth's atmosphere. The European Union has pledged to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
The commission, the EU's executive, on Wednesday proposed binding emission-cutting targets for each member state in the areas of transport, agriculture, buildings and waste management.
It also presented a proposal on handling emissions and climate change benefits related to agriculture and forestry, as well as a strategy to lower emissions in the transport sector.
"Today's package shows that we are mobilizing all our policies towards the competitive, circular and low-carbon economy that we promised," commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said.
"[We want to] show the world that when we speak about climate policy, we are the serious guys, the guys with the most ambitious targets, the guys with the policies already implemented," EU Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete added.
But environmental groups and other activists disagreed, arguing that flexibility measures included in the proposals amount to loopholes, which - according to Imke Luebbeke of WWF - will "allow countries to cheat their way out of real climate action."
"Countries will be able claim carbon credits by planting trees and from dubious accounting of their forest management, instead of insulating homes and investing in more sustainable agriculture and transport," added Marc-Olivier Herman of the Oxfam anti-poverty organization, saying the EU thereby "cooks the books."
EU governments and the European Parliament will have to agree to the commission's proposals for them to come into effect.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks on Wednesday welcomed the commission's proposals as "a good basis for the upcoming negotiations."
The emission-cutting targets take into account a country's economic performance, so that wealthier countries take on more ambitious targets than poorer ones.
Under the commission's proposal, Luxembourg and Sweden would lead the way with 40-per-cent reductions in emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Denmark and Finland would be next with targets of 39 per cent, followed by Germany with 38 per cent, and France and Britain with 37 per cent.
Britain recently voted to leave the EU, but is included in the proposal since negotiations on its exit have yet to start and are expected to last years.
At the other end of the scale, Bulgaria would not be required to cut emissions, while Romania would get a target of only 2 per cent.
"The EU has an ambitious emissions reduction target, one I am convinced we can achieve through the collective efforts of all member states," Canete said.