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7th Jun 2020

Green Deal

EU climate law slammed for delaying action

  • Today's EU climate law is unprecedented (Photo: Tate Kieto)

The European Commission will unveil on Wednesday (4 March) the first-ever EU climate law - to make its goal of reaching climate-neutrality by 2050 irreversible and legally-binding for all member states.

However, the proposal has failed to improve the target for emissions cuts in 2030.

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Instead, the commission will maintain the framework adopted in October 2014 - at least 40-percent emission cuts by 2030 - until there is a new risk assessment in place.

By September of this year, the commission will review possibly upping the 2030 target, towards 50 to 55 percent emissions cuts, according to the leaked draft of the EU's new climate law - seen by EUobserver.

This analysis will be based on a "comprehensive impact assessment", that will take into consideration all national energy and climate plans that are due to be submitted under the Paris Agreement.

However, only 11 out of 27 member states have submitted their national strategies - those from France, Luxembourg, Germany or Spain are still missing.

Speed up

A dozen member states - Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden - have urged the commission to speed up their assessment and propose a new 2030 target "by June at the latest".

In a letter sent on Tuesday (3 March) to the commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, they write that "the EU can lead by example and contribute to creating the international momentum needed for all parties to scale-up their ambition".

The EU-China summit scheduled for September and the United Nation climate talks (COP26) in Glasgow taking place in November will be two major opportunities to show EU's long-term strategy.

"No other major economy is prepared to take the lead to ensure an ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement," they said.

According to the chair of the parliament's environmental committee (ENVI), Pascal Canfin, "Europe cannot afford to go to Glasgow without an updated target for 2030".

"The German presidency [of the European Council] and the role of [Chancellor Angela] Merkel will be key in all scenarios if we want the climate law to be passed before COP26," he said.

30 years away

Experts stressed that global emissions must start dropping quickly if the EU wants to meet the Paris Agreement's goals to keep global temperatures as close as possible to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

"But even a 55 percent target in 2030 still leaves a lot of the hardest reductions to be made in just 20 years before 2050," said Thorfinn Stainforth, a policy analyst at the think tank Institute for European Environment Policy (IEEP).

Most environmental NGOs, such as WWF and Greenpeace, think that Europe should commit to at least 65 percent emissions cuts by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement.

However, the commission's proposal mainly focussed on the 2050 target, which has been criticised for not responding to the climate emergency - recently declared by the parliament.

According to Molly Walsh, climate justice campaigner for NGO Friends of the Earth Europe, "a target 30 years in the future exhibits a 'wait and see' attitude to ending Europe's dangerous dependency on fossil fuels"

Similarly, Sebastian Mang, EU climate policy adviser from NGO Greenpeace said that "governments and corporations are deflecting urgent action by latching on to distant targets that primarily commit future generations".

In addition, the draft law states that the commission will be in charge of reviewing the bloc's climate targets every five years - starting in 2023.

To do so, the commission will adopt so-called "delegated acts", which allow the EU's executive body to review the targets without having the full process of negotiations with the parliament and member states.

After the proposal is announced on Wednesday, it will be discussed by the parliament and member states.

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