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24th Jul 2021

Timmermans: EU climate law will 'discipline' rogue states

  • Polish climate minister Michal Kurtyka warned: 'We hope the commission will take into account the impact that their policies will have on the most vulnerable households in Europe' (Photo: Polish government)

Despite the lack of commitment of one of its member states, the European Union has decided to make its goal of reaching climate-neutrality by 2050 irreversible and legally-binding for all member states under the first EU-wide climate law.

The climate law, expected to be unveiled in March, will be an exercise in "disciplining," the executive vice-president of the commission, Frans Timmermans, told a conference in Brussels on Tuesday (28 January).

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"The climate law will discipline everyone in the process [of the Green Deal], especially the political side, to take the necessary steps to deliver climate neutrality by 2050," Timmermans warned.

And the law will also be a "legal opportunity" to hold accountable those who make promises and do not deliver, he added.

Liberal MEP Pascal Canfin, who chairs the parliament's environmental committee (ENVI), called on the commission to ensure that EU's climate law explicitly has a 55 percent emission cut target for 2030 and it is approved before the UN conference in Glasgow (COP26) - with an impact assessment by June.

Polish concerns

However, the climate minister of Poland, Michal Kurtyka, said it was not enough to boast about the EU's climate plan, but delivering on it while ensuring a fair transition towards climate-neutrality for all member states.

"We are pleased that the issue of just transition has been recognised and steps are being taken to ensure that it is truly fair and guarantees solidarity," Kurtyka said.

The Just Transition Fund will comprise €7.5bn from the upcoming EU long-term budget to support projects that are low-carbon and climate-resilient, including re-skilling programmes for miners, jobs in new economic sectors and energy-efficient housing.

Poland is set to receive the upper limit of the fund, fixed at €2bn - despite Warsaw's refusal to commit to the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal.

While the climate transition can bring many benefits, Kurtyka raised concerns over social justice for present and future generations.

"We hope that the commission will take into account the impact that their policies will have on the most vulnerable households in Europe," Kurtyka said.

Where is the money?

Experts have predicted that climate change will be one of the biggest generators of social exclusion and inequalities, said the secretary-general at European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Luca Visentini, who believes that the money available for the transition is insufficient.

The current situation requires negotiation between member states, the commission and stakeholders to find additional money besides the multiannual financial framework (MFF), Visentini said.

"We cannot set these ambitious climate targets and then not have the money required [to meet them]," he added.

Although the commission's plan for financing the Green Deal will be led by public funds, according to the European commissioner for the economy, Valdis Dombrovskis, the private sector will also have to play its role.

The commission earlier this month unveiled a sustainable investment plan to mobilise at least one trillion euros over the next decade to put Europe on track on track to reach the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal.

However, the ongoing negotiations on the MFF might not give the green light to the numbers presented by the commission.

Feature

Dutch case opens new era for climate-change litigation

Legal action related to climate change is set to grow considerably in the next few years - especially after a largely-overlooked ruling over Christmas by a Dutch court forced the government to reduce its emission by 25 percent by 2020.

MEPs declare 'climate emergency' in Europe

The European Parliament approved declaring a "climate emergency", ahead of next week's UN climate conference in Madrid - and three weeks after Donald Trump confirmed the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

The Green Deal commissioner, Frans Timmermans, said the costs of inaction in climate policy are "tremendously high". However, it is still unclear if member states will unanimously agree on the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality goal at next week's summit.

What will Brexit mean for climate action in EU and UK?

The UK is leaving the EU after playing a key role in climate action - just as COP26 comes to Glasgow. With so many policy negotiations ahead, a split between London and Brussels post-Brexit could undermine the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal.

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