European lawmakers and government representatives of the 27 member states have provisionally agreed on a new 2030 target for a 55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels.

That would be a much steeper cut than the 40% envisaged so far, but the goal is less ambitious than a 60% reduction the European Parliament had demanded and was immediately criticised by Green Party leaders. The new target is a key element of the European Green Deal and a European Climate Law that is in the making.

The agreement reached in the early morning hours after lengthy negotiations still needs to be approved both by the European Parliament and the European Council that represents EU governments.

“I am delighted that we have reached an agreement on this core element of the European Green Deal,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

“Our political commitment to becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050 is now also a legal commitment. The Climate Law sets the EU on a green path for a generation. It is our binding pledge to our children and grandchildren.”

The EU’s executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, added that the climate law will shape the EU’s green recovery from the Covid-19 economic downturn and will ensure a socially just green transition.

The agreement also includes a recognition of the need to enhance the EU’s carbon sink through an upcoming more ambitious land use and forestry regulation, as well as a process for setting a 2040 climate target that takes into account an indicative greenhouse gas budget for 2030-2050 to be published by the Commission.

Germany’s economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier welcomed the agreement on a climate target for 2030 and stressed it frees the path towards an ambitious European climate law.

The Green block within the European Parliament was disappointed with the 55% compromise.

Sven Giegold, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU parliament, tweeted the 55% target in reality only represents a 52.8% cut once “accounting tricks” (such as carbon sinks) are subtracted.

Eastern European countries that rely heavily on coal and lignite for their power supply had resisted a steeper cut.