By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will propose that the European Union sets a 2030 target of cutting its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% against 1990 levels, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.
Already well on the way to meeting its current climate target of a 40% cut by 2030, the EU wants to set a more ambitious near-term target in order to achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and cement its status as a global leader in efforts to curb catastrophic climate change.
The document, which could still be amended before publication, says the Commission will propose a target for the EU's net emissions in 2030 to be at least 55% below 1990 levels.
The EU executive, asked about the new target, said it did not comment on leaked documents.
For the new 2030 target to become EU policy, the bloc's three institutions must agree on it: the Commission, the European Parliament and the council, which is made up of member state governments.
The Commission will make its proposal for the new 2030 climate target next week.
Parliament has already started work on its proposal. Lawmakers in Parliament's environment committee on Friday rubber-stamped their support for a 60% emissions cutting target for 2030, a position they had agreed in another vote on Thursday. The full parliament will vote on the goal next month.
Member states will kick off talks on the target later this month, and are split over how ambitious it should be.
A "net" emissions target can be achieved both by cutting greenhouse gas output from sectors such as industry and power generation, and using forests or carbon capture technologies to remove emissions from the atmosphere.
The EU's 2050 'net zero' goal means that, by that date, most sectors would have slashed their greenhouse gas output to near zero, and emissions removals would be used to balance out any remaining emissions production.
Researchers and climate campaigners have said that in the near term, using emissions removals to meet targets should be a last resort, and the priority should be to stop producing planet-warming gases in the first place.
"Due to questions of permanence and accounting, avoiding emissions is better for the climate than removing carbon," German think-tank Agora Energiewende said in a report last month.
Greenpeace policy adviser Sebastian Mang said using removals would be an "accounting trick" that could make the goal sound more ambitious than it actually is.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Angus MacSwan)