Climate Change: EU Aims To Be 'Climate Neutral' By 2050

The European Union says it is aiming to become the first major economy to go "climate neutral" by 2050.

Under the plan, emissions of greenhouse gases after that date would have to be offset by planting trees or by burying them underground.

Scientists say that net-zero emissions by 2050 are needed to have a fighting chance of keeping global temperatures under 1.5C this century

The EU says the move will also cut premature air pollution deaths by 40%.

What is climate neutrality?

Climate neutrality means your emissions are balanced by methods of removing warming gases from the atmosphere. So the warming emissions that are created by cars and power plants should be counteracted by the greenhouse gases removed from the air by the planting of new forests or through carbon capture technologies which would see the CO2 buried underground.

Getting to this point would require large cuts in emissions from the current position. Since 1990 the EU has cut its emissions by over 20% while the economies of member states have continued to grow.

They have set themselves much harder targets for 2030 of cutting emissions by 40% - The EU says it will achieve this target but now plans to go much further again by becoming climate neutral by 2050.

How will they get there?

The EU have set out eight scenarios for member states to cut warming gases - two of these strategies would see Europe become climate neutral.

The EU says that this can be done with existing technologies such as solar and wind energy which would have to be ramped up to provide 80% of electricity. Energy efficiency measures such as home insulation would also need to be boosted to reduce energy consumption by half by the middle of the century.

"With this plan, Europe will be the world's first major economy to go for net-zero emissions by 2050," said EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete. "We have all the tools to be ambitious."

The EU believes that the measures will help achieve the goals of the Paris agreement will be expensive but will boost economies by 2% of GDP by 2050 and reduce energy imports by over 70%, saving up to three trillion euros a year.

Why is this important?

The IPCC report on keeping temperatures below 1.5C was a "wake-up call" said Mr Cañete. Reports in recent days have also underlined just how far the gap has grown between what countries promised to do under the Paris agreement, and how far they've gotten with those endeavours.

The UN emissions gap study also showed that the majority of rich countries are not on track to meet their carbon cutting commitments by 2030.

With global climate talks due to start in a few days in Poland the EU's move, although still a strategy and not a firm commitment, will be welcome news.

"If we do not lead, no one else will," said Mr Cañete.