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EU recommends ambitious 2040 climate target, goes light on farming



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EU recommends 90% net emissions cut for 2040

Emissions cut for agriculture left out

Follows weeks of farmers' protests

Some green rules face backlash ahead of EU elections

Recasts, adds comments from MEPs in paragraphs 9-12

By Kate Abnett

STRASBOURG, Feb 6 (Reuters) -The European Commission recommended on Tuesday that the EU slash net greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040, an ambitious target that will test political appetite for the region's fight against climate change ahead of EU elections.

Europe's climate agenda is entering a difficult phase as it begins to touch sensitive sectors, such as farming, and as traditional industries face fierce green tech competition from China.

While the overall target was within the range recommended by the EU's official climate science advisers, the EU executive weakened part of the recommendation concerning agriculture, in response to weeks of protests by farmers angry about EU green rules, among other complaints.

A previous draft of the EU target, seen by Reuters, had said agriculture would need to cut non-CO2 emissions 30% by 2040 from 2015 levels to comply with the overall climate goal. That was removed from the final draft.

"We need to make sure we have a balanced approach," European Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra told the European Parliament, as he unveiled the proposal. "The vast majority of our citizens sees the effects of climate change, does want protection, but is also worried about what that implies for their livelihood."

Tuesday's proposal will kick off political debate on the target, but it will be up to a new EU Commission and Parliament, formed after European Parliament elections in June, to pass the final target.

Polls show the June election could deliver a major shift to the right in the EU Parliament, which could make passing ambitious climate policies harder.

EU ELECTION

The apparent concession to farmers did not satisfy many right-wing members of the EU's parliament who said the Commission's green targets would constrain lifestyles and the economy.

"The farmers are revolting in Europe and the European Commission is coming with further unrealistic ambitions," said Alexandr Vondra, from the eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists Group, criticising what he called a drive to "force people to have a different lifestyle."

Sylvia Limmer, an MEP from Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) criticised EU leaders for being "stupidly happy" about cutting CO2 emissions, adding that green policies were responsible for what she called a major economic meltdown.

On the other side, Left Group MEP Silvia Mordig said agriculture also needed to make an effort. "Don't make the ... mistake of not talking about agriculture, it does not solve the problem," Green MEP Bas Eickhout said.


ENERGY MIX

In its proposal, the Commission said the EU should set an economy-wide 2040 target for 90% net greenhouse gas cuts compared with 1990 levels.

The EU plan focused on building an edge in European clean-tech industries, and maintaining public support for climate policy as the EU heads into the elections.

The aim is to keep European Union countries on track between the EU's existing 2030 climate goal and its long-term aim of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

The 2040 target would transform Europe's energy mix, with coal-fuelled power phased out and overall fossil fuel use reduced by 80% and replaced with renewable and nuclear power.

The draft also laid out the cost of failing to tackle climate change, in the form of more destructive extreme weather which could mean additional costs of 2.4 trillion euros in the EU by 2050 if global warming is not limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The EU reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 33% in 2022, from 1990 levels.

A second EU document, also published on Tuesday, outlined plans to capture and store hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 - one of many areas requiring huge investment in new technologies.



Reporting by Kate Abnett and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alex Richardson, Bernadette Baum and Christina Fincher

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