Commission floats future phase-out of petrol and diesel cars

Brussels – A European Commission analysis to back up its climate plans for 2030 has revealed an attempt to fudge its target to cut EU-wide emissions by at least 55%, said Greenpeace, warning that the target also falls far short of what science requires to avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown.

The Commission also revealed today that it is looking into proposing a date to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars in the EU.

Greenpeace said the Commission wants to artificially inflate the target to 55% by including emissions absorbed by carbon sinks like forests and soil, replacing emission cuts in the most polluting sectors, like energy, transport and farming. But these carbon removals cannot replace real emission reductions, particularly as the EU’s forest sinks have reduced their ability to store carbon over the last ten years and are projected to continue doing so, mostly due to logging.

A recent study by the NewClimate Institute shows that separate targets for emission cuts and emissions absorbed by nature have significant advantages over combined net-zero targets. Greenpeace calls on the EU to take urgent action to protect biodiversity and agree a stand-alone target to restore nature.

Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang said: “If the bathroom is flooding you have to cut off the water, not just mop it up. Restoring forests and other ecosystems is essential, but can’t be a replacement for real emission cuts in the most polluting sectors. The only thing that can beat the climate crisis is for governments to follow the science – not only does the Commision fail to do that, it’s fudging the numbers.”

The Commission’s 55% target falls far short of the cuts required by science to keep global heating to 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, and avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown. Last week, the European Parliament’s environment committee backed a 60% cut in EU emissions by 2030, without including carbon sinks, up from the current 40% target.

To increase the chances of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, in line with Paris climate agreement, Greenpeace calls for a reduction in EU emissions of at least 65% by 2030.

The modelling carried out by the Commission details a variety of scenarios to achieve a net-emissions target of at least 55%, achieving real emission cuts of between 52.8% and 55.5% (including efforts in international shipping and aviation). The Commission has failed to model a combined scenario in which all policies are strengthened. The impact assessment also shows that the real emissions reductions could be at least 55% without relying on natural sinks.

The Commission analysis projects that the impact of achieving 55% emission cuts on real GDP would be almost nil, and this despite the failure to consider the significant cost of climate impacts.

The measures considered in the analysis include the further development of renewable energy and energy efficiency, a strengthening of the EU’s Emissions Trading System, and action to decarbonise transport, including international aviation and shipping. One scenario by the Commission says that the share of renewable energy should increase to 40% by 2030 – up from the current 32% target for 2030 – and energy efficiency to 41% – up from a 32.5% target for 2030. Coal consumption should decrease by at least 70%, compared to 2015, oil by 30% and gas by 25%.

According to a study of compliance with the Paris climate agreement, renewable energy needs to increase its share to at least 50%, while energy efficiency should account for at least 45% by 2030. Coal should be completely phased out by 2030, with all other fossil fuels phased out by 2040.

Commenting on measures proposed by the Commission related to the transport sector, Greenpeace EU climate campaigner Lorelei Limousin said: “It’s high time to say goodbye to vehicles running on fossil fuels, to cut the number of cars significantly, and offer sustainable mobility options to all Europeans. That’s the least the Commission can do, considering the piles of cash offered to the car industry, without conditions to act on climate and protect jobs. Transforming transport would not only create jobs, it would be a game changer in the fight against climate breakdown and the impact it has on our health.”

The Commission projects that CO₂ emissions from passenger cars will be 50% lower in 2030 than the current target for 2021, and plans to strengthen 2030 car and van standards by June 2021.

According to new research by Greenpeace, the EU must take bolder measures to ensure the transport sector supports the 1.5°C objective. The study shows the sales of petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles must end by 2028 at the latest, while the number of privately-owned cars should fall by 27% by 2030 (compared to 2015 levels). The study also outlines the need for significant investments in cleaner transport modes, like trains, and a phase-out of short-haul flights.

The Commission plans will inform discussions for a new 2030 climate target by European government leaders at an EU summit in October, as well as discussions by environment ministers and MEPs on an EU climate law.


Sebastian Mang  – Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser: +32 (0)479 601289, [email protected]

Lorelei Limousin – Greenpeace EU climate campaigner: +32 (0)477 790415, [email protected]

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, [email protected]

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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.