The European Commission wants to look at all greenhouse gases responsible for global warming and not just carbon dioxide, European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said in response to criticism by teen activist Greta Thunberg.
“We work towards climate neutrality in 2050, which is not only about carbon, it’s also about other gases,” Timmermans said on Wednesday (4 March).
“So we just have a different approach,” the Dutchman told EURACTIV on the sidelines of the Commission’s official presentation of the European Climate Law.
Thunberg has scolded the Commission for failing to include a carbon budget in its proposed Climate Law which aims to enshrine Europe’s 2050 climate neutrality goal into hard legislation.
But according to Thunberg, the mid-century objective is set too far in the future and drastic action must be taken immediately in order to reduce emissions of planet-warming gases.
“We have a budget of less than 340 Gt of CO2 left to emit globally” in order to have a chance of staying below a 1.5C global average temperature rise, Thunberg wrote in an opinion piece co-authored with 34 young climate activists.
And that remaining budget “will soon be completely used up,” she warned.
“’Net zero emissions by 2050’ for the EU equals surrender,” she continued. “It means giving up. We don’t just need goals for just 2030 or 2050. We, above all, need them for 2020 and every following month and year to come”.
Circular economy and biodiversity strategies
But Timmermans deflected those criticisms, saying the Commission had chosen a different approach by looking at all greenhouse gases, including methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, which has a much higher global warming potential than CO2.
“We really want to look at this in a holistic way and look at all the gases that are responsible for the rise in temperature,” he said.
Timmermans also said the Commission was looking at other ways of addressing the climate crisis, by preparing a biodiversity strategy and new laws on waste recycling and secondary raw materials.
“The effect of what we do with the circular economy is much bigger than [Greta] anticipates,” the Dutchman told EURACTIV.
The circular economy, including new waste and recycling laws, will represent “half” of the effort to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, EU officials have said.
The Commission is expected to publish a new circular economy action plan next Tuesday (10 March).