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February 6, 2024

Editor’s note: farming protests influence EU lawmaking

Farmers protests outside EU parliament
Farmers protesting outside the EU parliament last week. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a withdrawal of the Sustainable Use Regulation aimed at reducing the use of pesticides across the bloc by 2030 (Photo: Philippa Nuttall)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

The European Commission is gearing up this afternoon to make various climate and energy announcements that will set the tone for how the EU will deal with these subjects after the European elections in June. The expectation is a proposal for a 90 per cent cut in net emissions by 2040 and a carbon management plan likely to push the role of carbon capture and storage. 

While a 90 per cent emissions reduction sounds ambitious, many environmental campaigners are concerned the focus on CCS and other carbon removal techniques could send the wrong signal to investors and give the fossil fuel industry a licence to continue largely with business as usual. 

“‘Carbon management’ is a new code word for climate inaction and fossil fuel subsidies. Yet we are far past the time when carbon emissions can be managed: we have to eliminate them,” insists Lili Fuhr, fossil economy programme director at the non-profit Center for International Environmental Law. 

There are also reports that last week’s farmers’ protests have influenced commission thinking, and that references to a 30 per cent reduction target for methane, nitrogen and other gases linked to farming by 2040 have been removed from the EU executive’s emissions-cutting plans. 

Earlier today, commission president Ursula von der Leyen proposed a withdrawal of the Sustainable Use Regulation aimed at reducing the use of pesticides across the EU by 2030. This decision follows hot on the heels of France’s announcement last week that it was pausing its pesticide-reducing plans following the farmers’ protests. The UK is also years late with its national action plan for the sustainable use of pesticides.

The EU institutions are likewise expected to reach a deal today on the Net Zero Industry Act, which should send a clear(ish) signal to investors and businesses about the technologies and industries the EU sees as priority for the clean energy transition.  

While waiting to read the details of all this later on Sustainable Views, I invite you to read Alex’s investigation into ExxonMobil’s decision to sue investor activists Follow This and Arjuna Capital, forcing them to withdraw a climate resolution they had tabled for the oil major’s upcoming annual meeting. 

Alex also takes a look at cookstove carbon credits and the controversies surrounding their potential to lead to real-world emissions reductions. 

Until tomorrow,


Philippa Nuttall is the deputy editor of Sustainable Views 

A service from the Financial Times