In April 2021, the Council’s and the European Parliament’s negotiators reached a provisional political agreement setting into law the objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050, and a collective, net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990.The provisional agreement envisages:
- giving priority to emissions reductions over removals regarding the 2030 target
- establishing a European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change to provide scientific advice and reporting on EU measures, targets and budgets
- an intermediate climate target for 2040 to be proposed by the Commission
The provisional political agreement is subject to approval by the Council and Parliament, before going through the formal steps of the adoption procedure.
The earth’s climate is changing. Dr Anna Hogg warns about the effects of global warming for people and the environment.
A global challenge
The current changes in the planet’s climate are transforming the world. The last two decades included 18 of the warmest years on record, and extreme weather events, such as forest fires, heatwaves and floods, are becoming more frequent both in Europe and elsewhere.
Scientists warn that without urgent action, global warming is likely to exceed 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2060, and could even reach as much as 5°C by the end of the century.
Such a rise in the global temperature will have a devastating impact on nature, bringing about irreversible changes to many ecosystems and a consequent loss of biodiversity. Higher temperatures and intensified weather events will also result in huge costs for the EU’s economy and hamper countries’ ability to produce food.
The EU’s response to climate change: goals and legislation
At least 55% fewer greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
The EU has adopted ambitious legislation across multiple policy areas to implement its international commitments on climate change. EU countries have set binding emission targets for key sectors of the economy to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
By 2017, the EU had reduced its emissions by almost 22% compared to 1990, reaching its 2020 emission reduction target three years ahead of schedule.
In December 2020, in light of the EU’s commitment to increase its climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, EU leaders endorsed a binding EU target for a net domestic reduction of at least 55% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 – a substantial step up from the EU’s previous 2030 target of cutting emissions by 40%.
In April 2021, the Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the European climate law which aims to set into law the 2030 emissions reduction target.
While this increased climate ambition will require transforming the EU industry, it will also:
- spur sustainable economic growth
- create jobs
- deliver health and environmental benefits for EU citizens
- contribute to the long-term global competitiveness of the EU economy by promoting innovation in green technologies
What is climate neutrality?
Long-term vision: a climate-neutral EU by 2050
Exactly a year before setting a new emission reduction target, EU leaders endorsed the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050 during a meeting of the European Council. This means that between now and 2050, the EU will drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and find ways of compensating for the remaining and unavoidable emissions. Reaching a net-zero emissions balance will benefit people and the environment and will limit global warming.
In its conclusions of December 2019, the European Council underlined that the transition to climate neutrality will bring significant opportunities for:
EU leaders also recognised the need to put in place an enabling framework to ensure that the transition is cost-effective, as well as socially balanced and fair. The recently established Just Transition Mechanism will ensure tailored support is provided to regions and sectors that face particular challenges in the climate transition.
The leaders stressed that climate action should be mainstreamed across all policy sectors, reiterating the EU’s strong commitment to delivering on its pledges. They underlined that significant public and private investment was needed to set the EU on the transition path and that in this context the EU’s next long-term budget would significantly contribute to climate action.
Following the recently agreed EU long-term budget for 2021-2027 and Next Generation EU, at least 30% of the total expenditure should be targeted towards climate-related projects.
European Green Deal: translating the goal into action
The European Green Deal provides the blueprint and roadmap for the EU to make its climate ambitions a reality. It recognises the need for all EU actions and policies to play a role in achieving climate neutrality, and it sets out a roadmap for legislative and non-legislative initiatives which will help the EU to attain this goal. These actions concern sectors such as industry, transport and mobility, energy, and finance.
The European climate law, which is currently being negotiated by the Council and the European Parliament, will translate the EU’s political commitments on climate into a legal obligation. This piece of legislation, when finalised and adopted, will set the framework for the actions to be taken by the EU and its member states to progressively reduce emissions and ultimately reach climate neutrality in the EU by 2050.
Shaping global action
Collective action is key to addressing climate change and reaching the Paris Agreement’s goals. The EU strongly advocates for climate ambition both in international fora and in its bilateral relations with non-EU countries.
Together with its member states, the EU is the largest provider of climate financing in the world. The funds support climate-related projects and actions in developing countries to facilitate their green transition and to tackle the adverse effects of climate change.