Climate Science Advisers Tell EU to Phase Out Fossil Fuels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — The European Union will need to revamp its policies to deliver a fossil fuel phase-out if the bloc is to achieve its ambitious climate targets, official advisers said on Jan. 18.

The 27-country EU was among the loudest voices demanding a global deal to phase out fossil fuels at last year’s COP28 climate summit, which ended with a weaker agreement to transition away from coal, oil and gas.

Despite that stance, the EU’s own policies are not aligned with phasing out fossil fuels in the coming decades and will need revising to deliver net zero emissions by 2050, the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change said in a report.

The advisers said much of this work would kick in after 2030, but it should start earlier to smooth the transition.

“The EU needs to sharply decrease the use of fossil fuels, and almost fully phase out the use of coal and fossil gas in public electricity and heat generation by 2040,” they said.

Policies that support fossil fuels include the EU’s state aid rules and green investment taxonomy that labels sustainable investments and includes those in gas infrastructure.

The advisers also called for countries to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and to redirect such spending toward targeted actions that help vulnerable households.

EU-wide fossil fuel subsidies surged to €120 billion ($130.57 billion) in 2022 as governments plowed money into shielding citizens from high energy prices after Russia invaded Ukraine and cut gas deliveries to Europe.

A raft of recently-agreed EU climate policies means countries are nearly on track for their 2030 emissions-cutting target, but longer-term climate goals will require far deeper CO2 cuts.

Brussels is drafting a 2040 climate target, due to be presented next month, which the advisers have said should be a 90-95% emissions cut.

They recommended a range of actions to deliver this, some of which target politically sensitive sectors like agriculture, where recent green measures have met resistance.

One recommendation would put a price on emissions from farming after 2030, while others would improve the investment conditions for renewable energy and do more to address the social impact of climate policies.