Germany, France and Italy have pledged to hit net zero emissions around the middle of the century in a bid to stop weather from growing more extreme.
But the EU’s three biggest economies – and polluters – are all struggling to meet their goals.
Germany, Europe’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, plans to hit net zero emissions by 2045. Every big party bar the far right promised to keep the planet from heating 1.5C.
The coalition government between the Social Democrats, Greens and liberals has nearly torn itself apart fighting over policies to clean up the economy. The liberals and opposition Christian Democrats have framed proposals to phase out combustion engine cars and new gas boilers as an attack on freedom. However, laws to make it easier to build wind turbines and solar panels have been pushed through with little backlash.
Germany strengthened its climate law two years ago after the top court ruled the previous version was “partly unconstitutional”. But sectors like buildings and transport have since failed to meet their yearly targets. The government’s scientific watchdog said the transport minister’s last “immediate action plan” was too weak even to assess. The cabinet has now decided to scrap sectoral targets.
France aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050. But while it plans to go slower than Germany, it is already closer to the target. In 2021, it spewed half as much greenhouse gas as Germany, mainly because of a vast fleet of nuclear power plants making low-carbon electricity.
France wants half of its energy to come from nuclear power by 2035 and 40% of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030.
But France has struggled to cut emissions from agriculture, which are the highest of any country in Europe, and transport. In 2018 the “yellow vest” protest movement forced French president Emmanuel Macron to ditch a planned hike on fuel taxes.
This May the Conseil d’État, France’s top court, found “no credible guarantee that the trajectory of reducing greenhouse gas emissions shall be effectively respected”.
Europe’s third biggest polluter has a net zero goal of 2050.
In a draft national energy and climate plan, it said it aims to use renewable sources to make 65% of its electricity by 2030 and cover 40% of its energy demand.
Italy relies heavily on fossil gas for heating and power, mostly from abroad. Its clean energy industries have grown slowly over the last 10 years, though recent reforms are set to pick up the pace of installations. Italy is also offering a “superbonus” tax break to insulate homes.
Yet as heatwaves killed people in July, the environment minister said he did not know “how much [climate change] is due to man or Earth”. The IPCC has shown that global heating is entirely down to humans.