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European Climate Law puts EU on course for net zero emissions

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European Climate Law puts EU on course for net zero emissions

Greta Thunberg - Photo © European Union 2020 - Source EP

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission proposed Wednesday to set Europe on an 'irreversible path to a more sustainable future', by enshrining in legislation the EU's political commitment to be climate neutral by 2050.

The climate law proposal contains a five-yearly review of the EU and Member States' progress towards climate neutrality starting in 2023, and gives the European Commission powers to set an emissions trajectory the EU should follow beyond 2030.

The European Climate Law sets the 2050 target and the direction of travel for all EU policy, and the Commission says it gives predictability for public authorities, businesses and citizens. The EU executive has also launched a public consultation on the future European Climate Pact.

"We are turning words into action today, to show our European citizens that we are serious about reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, said EC vice-president for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans: "The European Climate Law is also a message to our international partners that this is the year to raise global ambition together, in the pursuit of our shared Paris Agreement goals. The Climate Law will ensure we stay focused and disciplined, remain on the right track and are accountable for delivery."

The announcement came at the same time as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared at the Environment committee of the European Parliament, where she said the new proposal for a climate law was "a surrender".

With the European Climate Law the Commission proposes a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The EU Institutions and the Member States are collectively bound to take the necessary measures at EU and national level to meet the target.

The Climate Law includes measures to keep track of progress and adjust our actions accordingly, based on existing systems such as the governance process for Member States' National Energy and Climate Plans, regular reports by the European Environment Agency, and the latest scientific evidence on climate change and its impacts. Progress will be reviewed every five years, in line with the global stocktake exercise under the Paris Agreement.

The Climate Law also addresses the pathway to get to the 2050 target:

  • Based on a comprehensive impact assessment, the Commission will propose a new 2030 EU target for greenhouse gas emission reductions. The Climate Law will be amended once the impact assessment is completed.
  • By June 2021, the Commission will review, and where necessary propose to revise, all relevant policy instruments to achieve the additional emission reductions for 2030.
  • The Commission proposes the setting of a 2030-2050 EU-wide trajectory for greenhouse gas emission reductions, to measure progress and give predictability to public authorities, businesses and citizens.
  • By September 2023, and every five years thereafter, the Commission will assess the consistency of EU and national measures with the climate-neutrality objective and the 2030-2050 trajectory.
  • The Commission will be empowered to issue recommendations to Member States whose actions are inconsistent with the climate-neutrality objective, and Member States will be obliged to take due account of these recommendations or to explain their reasoning if they fail to do so. The Commission can also review the adequacy of the trajectory and the Union wide measures.
  • Member States will also be required to develop and implement adaptation strategies to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

Alongside government policies and regulation, the Commission says that all sectors of society and economy have a part to play in the transition to a climate-neutral European Union. It is accordingly launching a public consultation on a new European Climate Pact, a broad initiative to give citizens and stakeholders a voice and role in designing new climate actions, sharing information, launching grassroots activities and showcasing solutions that others can follow.

The public consultation will be open for 12 weeks. The inputs will be used to shape the Climate Pact, which will be launched before the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow in November 2020 (COP26).

Today the Commission officially started work with the publication of the inception impact assessments on the future Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism and the review of the Energy Taxation Directive, two of the other important policy instruments under the European Green Deal. In addition, the College of Commissioners adopted a proposal to designate 2021 as the European Year of Rail to highlight the benefits for the climate of increasing passenger and freight use of the rail network.

The European Climate Law and Climate Pact - 
background guide

European Climate Law

2050 long-term strategy

European Climate Pact

European Green Deal


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