Wednesday

30th Nov 2022

EU capitals water down MEPs' ambition in climate law

  • 'MEPs are the directly elected representatives of European citizens who have marched in the streets for and called for much greater climate action,' warned said Romain Laugier from WWF Europe (Photo: John Blower)

National governments, led by the Portuguese presidency, have watered down provisions that MEPs are trying to introduce to raise the bar of the first-ever EU climate law.

The European Climate Law aims to make the bloc's goal of reaching climate-neutrality by 2050 irreversible and legally-binding.

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But EU institutions' positions on the course of action are still far apart, according to a document seen by EUobserver.

Last month, negotiators made progress on some parts of the law that would force Brussels to create an emissions-cutting target for 2040, and require member states to create plans to adapt to climate-related events such as increased heatwaves, floods or droughts.

But highly-sensitive issues remain unsolved in the 'trilogue' negotiations. Trilogues are a set of meetings on legislative proposals between representatives of the parliament, the council and the commission

So far, member states have rejected lawmakers' calls to increase the 2030 emissions-reduction target, backing up the European Commission's initial proposal.

"There is still a big elephant in the room," MEP Jytte Guteland, the European Parliament's key negotiator on the bill, told EUobserver.

"The 2030 target is really important for every institution, but we cannot be in a situation where we need to eat what some else has cooked. We need to have a compromise," she added.

Domestic capitals agreed in December to cut their net emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 (from 1990 levels) - which would mean a cut in actual "real" emissions of 50.5 - 52.8 percent.

The parliament, for its part, wants a 60-percent emission-reduction in the next decade.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have warned that only a 65-percent emissions-reduction target that excludes carbon sinks would be in line with science.

"When it comes to the 2030 climate target, it is essential that the council of the European Union and commission pay heed to the more ambitious position of MEPs," said Romain Laugier from WWF Europe.

"MEPs are the directly elected representatives of European citizens who have marched in the streets for and called for much greater climate action," he added.

Despite the pandemic, there is still widespread recognition of climate change as a global emergency.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of people in 50 countries believe that climate change is an emergency, according to a recent UN survey.

'Not acceptable'

The draft compromise proposal, seen by EUobserver, also labels as "not acceptable" the parliament's call to make the net-zero emissions target for 2050 binding for every country. EU capitals say it needs to be a joint effort.

The next round of negotiations is to take place next week (12 March). Although the agenda is not finalised, the core targets are unlikely to be discussed then.

Negotiations topics include the possibility of having targets to decarbonise certain economic sectors, the timeline to establish the intermediary 2040 target, and the role of the European Climate Change Council (ECCC).

MEPs propose to have this independent scientific body to control whether EU policy is consistent with climate goals and monitor progress annually. But its role will be limited to "assisting" the European Environment Agency.

EU lawmakers also proposed that each country should be encouraged to establish a climate advisory body, but national governments fear that these committees could "overlap" and "undermine" leading international scientific bodies, such as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But at least 13 member states have already national expert advisory bodies in place.

The possibility of creating a "carbon budget" of the total greenhouse gasses the EU could emit without undermining its climate goals will also be discussed next week, but national governments have previously rejected this idea.

The 'carbon budget' approach is commonly shared by NGOs and scientists as the best way to achieve the climate action required by the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

June?

EU lawmakers want to reach an agreement on the climate law before June - when the commission is expected to present a package of climate and energy laws to achieve the new 2030 target.

"If the climate law is to steer that process, we need to be ready in spring," said Guteland.

The last report published by the UN climate change shows "governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement," said UN secretary-general António Guterres last week.

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