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Securing future: Youths showing their hands bearing the inscriptions ‘Our future in your hands’ at a stir in Berlin.   | Photo Credit: TOBIAS SCHWARZ

EU leaders will this week discuss setting a target of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, European officials said on Monday, following elections that highlighted climate change fears.

European Union leaders meeting on Thursday and Friday in Brussels will debate the 2050 target of “climate neutrality” that the environmental group WWF says now has the support of 16 of the EU’s 28 countries. “We urgently need to step up our action to manage this existential threat,” a draft of the EU’s strategic agenda for the next six years says.

“The EU must lead the way, by engaging in an in-depth transformation of its own economy and society to achieve climate neutrality,” according to the draft.

The draft contained a footnote, saying the wording may be adjusted to reflect the results of the summit debate, which an EU source said would focus on the 2050 target. The source said that a number of EU countries want more debate on financing the shift from an economy running on fossil fuels, especially those in eastern Europe, to one driven by clean energy.

The source, speaking anonymously, that “I’m sure everyone will agree on this target, but only in December,” when the leaders hold their annual year-end summit.

The growing stress on climate action comes after May 23-26 elections to the European Parliament where Green parties made substantial gains. Spurred by a wave of student strikes, voters in many countries highlighted climate concerns and the Parliament’s main political blocs for the first time adopted climate action as a rallying cry.

The World Wildlife Fund said Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Britain are “on board” for the 2050 goal.

The British government last week presented draft legislation to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

The WWF said Austria and Ireland appeared increasingly likely to support the target. Still uncertain or hesitant, it added, are Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia, though they are “unlikely to block” it. It said Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria remain “strongly opposed,” but Hungary and Romania could overcome opposition to do a deal.

Under the 2015 Paris climate change treaty, the EU pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

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