The European Parliament has voted for a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (from 1990 levels) – a steeper cut than the at least 55% the European Commission (EC) had proposed as part of its ambition for climate neutrality by 2050.

“It’s a great victory for the climate movement. But work starts now!” Green Party EU parliament member Michael Bloss tweeted.

The reduction as part of the commission’s climate law would be up from a binding 40% cut valid today, but is unlikely to be accepted by coal-dependent countries such as Poland.

The Eastern European country has already rejected a 55% emissions reduction on a national level, and asked for greater EU help under the Just Transition Mechanism for its energy transition to be able to wean itself of its dependency on coal, which still accounts for more than 70% of Poland’s electricity.

“I know that this proposal goes too far for some, and for others not far enough. But the target is ambitious: we propose to reduce our emissions over the next decade by as much as we have achieved over the past quarter century,” Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s executive vice president, told the EU parliament yesterday ahead of the debate on the climate law.

“The target is well-founded in science. It shows responsibility towards developing countries but doesn’t take on an undue burden given the ambition needed from other industrial nations.”

After the European Commission made its climate law proposal in March that contains the 2050 net zero pledge, China – the world’s by far largest emitter of greenhouse gases – announced plans to become carbon-neutral by 2060.

EU lawmakers approved the higher emissions cut in an amendment to the EC’s climate law, which the parliament will vote on its entirety late Wednesday. Bloss and others expect the European Parliament to approve the law.

The legislation then will be discussed at a meeting of the European Council next week, but it is unclear whether the heads of government from the 27 EU member states will reach a final agreement on it, in particular due to the stingy issue of emission cuts.

According to a draft version of a statement to be adopted by EU leaders next week seen by the Bloomberg news agency, the European Council may only approve the general lines of the climate law, but postpone a decision on the emissions reduction until December.

The commission hopes to get the climate law approved in parliament and the European council by year-end, but given the resistance of Eastern European member states and limitations to the law making process due to the Covid-19 pandemic there are serious doubts in Brussels whether that deadline can be met.