The European Parliament has today (Tuesday, March 14) voted to increase the 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target at EU level to 40% compared to 2005 levels.

Under the new Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), member states’ maximum level of GHG emissions from agriculture, transport, and buildings until 2030 will be reduced.

Ireland must reduce its total GHG emissions – in the sectors subject to the ESR – by 42% relative to 2005 levels, compared to the pervious target of 30%.

For the first time, all EU countries must reduce GHG emissions between 10-50%, based on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita and cost-effectiveness in each country.

Denmark; Germany; Luxembourg; Finland; and Sweden must halve their emissions. Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, and Latvia were allocated the lowest targets at 10%; 12.7%; 16.7%; and 17% respectively.

“With this law, we take a major step forward in delivering on the EU’s climate goals. The new rules for national emission cuts ensure that all member states contribute and that existing loopholes are closed.

“This allows us to send a clear signal that the EU is serious about being the global champion for a competitive and efficient climate agenda,” rapporteur Jessica Polfjard said after the vote.

The revised ESR was adopted with 486 votes to 132 and 10 abstentions, according to the European Parliament.

Emissions reduction

MEPs also voted to increase carbon sink targets for land and forests by 15% to 310 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, which would bring EU GHG reductions in 2030 to 57%.

The new emissions reduction target for the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector was adopted with 479 votes to 97 and 43 abstentions in the European Parliament.

All EU member states will have nationally binding 2030 targets for removals and emissions from LULUCF based on recent levels of removals and potential for further removals.

Ireland has been allocated a 3.73 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent ceiling under LULUCF. The sector is currently a net source of carbon, rather than a sink.

Carbon sinks in the EU have been decreasing for the last decade, according to rapporteur Ville Niinisto. Speaking after the vote today, he said:

“For the first time, this legislation considers biodiversity and the climate crisis jointly and member states will also need to take into account the do-no-significant-harm principle.”

Member states can purchase or sell removal credits between LULUCF and the ESR to reach their targets, and receive compensation if natural disasters, such as forest fires, occur.

From 2026, EU countries will have a four-year budget. If progress towards their target is not sufficient, 108% of the GHGs above their 2026-2029 budget will be added to their 2030 target.

The ESR and LULUCF are part of Fit for 55, which is the EU’s plan to reduce GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels in line with the European Climate Law.