The European Commission wants to reduce the European Union's greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2040 compared to 1990. It announced the goal on Tuesday in Strasbourg in a strategy paper on future climate policy.

From a scientific point of view, it is the most efficient way to move from the 55 percent target decided for 2030 to the long-term goal of becoming the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

New political decisions are not necessary for this.

Based on the agreed climate targets, the EU will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 88 percent by 2040.

However, emissions trading for buildings and transport has not yet come into force.

Hanna Decker

Editor in business.

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    Hendrik Kafsack

    Economic correspondent in Brussels.

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      The necessary investments for the 2040 goal are large.

      In the strategy paper for 2031 to 2050, the Commission estimates the costs of restructuring the energy system alone to be an average of 660 billion euros per year.

      This corresponds to 3.2 percent of economic output.

      For comparison: between 2011 and 2020, the EU invested 1.7 percent.

      In addition, between 2031 and 2050 there will be an annual budget of 870 billion euros or 4.2 percent of economic output for the restructuring of the transport sector.

      The controversial separation and storage or use of carbon dioxide (CCS/CCU) should play a central role in achieving the goal.

      This applies above all to industry, but also to power supply.

      The Commission estimates that 90 percent of electricity will be generated from renewable energy sources and nuclear power in 2040, although its share of total energy supply is expected to double to 50 percent by then.

      The EU also has to compensate for the remaining 10 percent produced using fossil fuels by eliminating CO2.

      “Technology that is technically easily scalable”

      This technology is even more crucial for industries that are difficult to decarbonize, such as cement or waste incineration plants that are used to supply energy.

      In order to achieve the climate goals, the Commission presented its own strategy paper on Tuesday with specific expansion targets for the separation and use of CO2.

      By 2030, the EU should release 50 million tons of CO2 annually.

      This corresponds to the emissions of Sweden.

      By 2040 there should be 280 million tonnes per year, and for 2050 the Commission estimates 450 million tonnes per year.

      The Commission is not only concerned with the separation of CO2 during industrial production or when burning fossil fuels to generate energy, but also with the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

      So far, the EU has relied on natural sinks such as forests or peatlands to generate such negative emissions.

      In the future, the Commission believes that this should be supplemented by two approaches.

      On the one hand, there is the separation of carbon dioxide, which is produced when biomass is burned, for example to generate electricity or heat, or BECCS for short.

      This is then permanently stored in geological formations.

      No special route

      Because biomass is considered CO2-neutral, CO2 is mathematically removed from the atmosphere.

      The same applies to sampling directly from the air, DACCS.

      In this process, fans suck in ambient air and the CO2 is bound by a sorbent.

      The first pilot plants are in Iceland, for example.

      However, direct extraction from the air is considered to be significantly more complex and expensive than BECCS.

      The steel and chemical industries, for example, have high hopes for the latter because of their high heat requirements.

      However, the potential is limited by the availability of biomass.

      The Commission is not taking a special approach.

      Almost all relevant studies assume that climate neutrality in Germany and Europe can only be achieved with the help of these processes.

      Many environmentalists now also see this.

      In an unusual solidarity move in January, the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the German Federation of Trade Unions and the nature conservation organizations NABU and WWF recognized CO2 capture as a “relevant component” for the transformation of Germany as a business location.

      However, there is controversy over the question of exactly which emissions should be compensated and to what extent negative emission processes should be used.

      The alliance emphasized that avoidance and reduction always take precedence over separation.

      Environmental associations such as BUND and Greenpeace take a more critical view of the issue and warn against “excessive expectations”.

      There are currently CCS systems for only 50 million tons of CO2 in the world.

      CCS is a “pseudo solution” and poses unforeseeable dangers for the environment.

      Any CO2 injection on land or under the seabed could trigger earthquakes and cause toxic deposits in the soil.

      It requires “enormous” land use, destroys natural landscapes, requires a lot of energy and endangers drinking water.

      The German energy and water association BDEW calls for underground storage to be limited to areas off the coast.

      BUND and Greenpeace warn that it has not yet been proven how long-term, safe storage of large quantities of pressed carbon dioxide can be achieved.

      Matthias Honegger from the think tank Perspectives Climate disagrees: “The geological storage potential is not limiting for European decarbonization and CO2 removal.

      They are also secure and technically easily scalable technologies.”

      A major issue is likely to be the development of infrastructure to transport the CO2 from the capture site to the storage facilities.

      For cost-effective climate protection, the expansion must be significantly accelerated, demanded BDI deputy managing director Holger Lösch.