Europe must profoundly change how it lives to meet climate goals, says European Commission


A leaked document from the European Commission (EC) into how to best tackle climate change outlines a series of radical recommendations for Europe to take, one of which calls for “profound lifestyle changes” for current and future generations of Europeans.

The document, seen by the Guardian, is a guideline for a meeting of foreign ministers held in Brussels today who are gathering to discuss Europe’s approach on reaching the terms outlined in the recent Paris Agreement – namely, drawing up plans to limit global warming to 1.5C.

One possibility explored in the document is the transition towards ‘negative’ emissions, which can only be facilitated by the wider adoption of renewable energy, greater energy efficiencies and an embrace of lifestyle changes designed to significantly reduce individuals’ carbon footprint.

The potential scale of the type of changes required will need a "wide societal debate in Europe", says the document.

The paper also adds that the European Union (EU) should review its current CO2 emissions reduction target of 40% by 2030 based on 1990 levels. A report by UN climate panel the IPCC, due in 2018, will likely set recommendations for the EU’s new target. "There is no requirement that the EU updates its 2030 headline target as a result of this process in 2020, but the timeframe presents the EU with an opportunity to do so," said the document.

The Commission has already developed scenarios for expediting Europe’s carbon cuts, but there is growing dismay that tangible and decisive action still appears some way off. "The EU has to redo its homework and set out a pathway to meet stricter energy efficiency and renewables targets," said Bram Claeys, Greenpeace EU’s climate policy advisor. "We can’t have confidence in a plan that plays fast and loose with global warming and fails to accelerate Europe’s shift to 100% renewable energy."

A summit scheduled for March 17-18 will gather EU leaders to discuss the possibility of raising the 2030 target, and it is understood that members of the Commission with significant influence are eager to revise the EU’s carbon market rules in 2023 to ensure that ambitions are met sooner.

The EU is hopeful of ratifying the Paris Agreement at a New York conference on April 22, with EU climate chief Miguel Arias Cañete keen to push this through. "It is in the EU’s interest to join early, alongside major economies such as the U.S. and China, and alongside other ‘high ambition’ countries," said the document.