10th Jun 2023

MEPs approve EU climate law - without Greens' support

  • Last year, the average global temperature was about 1.2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, close to the the 1.5-degree threshold advocated by scientists (Photo: European Commission)

The European Parliament on Thursday (24 June) gave the final green light to the first-ever EU climate law - despite Green and left-wing MEPs voting against it, for not being ambitious enough.

"This is the law of laws because it will discipline us in the years to come," declared EU commissioner in charge of the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans.

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"Europe will be leading the world in a way that it is not just about words," he added.

The EU's 27 member states and MEPs reached an agreement in April on the climate law - making the bloc's goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050 irreversible and legally-binding.

They agreed on a net emissions-reduction target (emissions after deduction of removals) of at least 55 percent by 2030 (on 1990 levels) - which would mean a cut in actual "real" emissions of 52.8 percent, or even less.

"Today, we are all stuck in the fossil economy," said socialist MEP Jytte Guteland, a key negotiator on the climate law. "Unless we rapidly cut emissions, the science is crystal clear. The future will be catastrophic," she added.

The EU Parliament officially approved the law with 442 votes in favour, 203 against and 51 abstentions.

However, MEPs from the Greens/EFA and The Left, who are in favour of more ambitious targets, voted against it. They argued that the bill is not aligned with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"Voting against the European Climate Law is painful, but we cannot support half-measures that risk the well-being of future generations," said Green MEP Michael Bloss.

Left-wing MEP Martin Schirdewan, for his part, said that the agreement on the climate law is all "smoke and mirrors".

"We need less posturing from the EU and more radical action that will save our planet from the threat of climate chaos," he said.

The right-wing Identity and Democracy group also rejected the bill, while the European Conservatives and Reformists abstained.

The centre-right European People's Party said that it is "irrational, foolish and absurd" that Green MEPs are voting with the extreme right, adding that voting against this law is a signal of "ideological blindness".

EU ambassadors are expected to formally endorse the bill on Monday.

The law will also set out a greenhouse gas budget for 2030-2050, which will inform the European Commission on setting an intermediate target for 2040.

A European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change will also be established to monitor the compatibility of EU measures with the climate law, as well as the implementation of targets.

The EU Commission is expected to present in mid-July its so-called 'Fit for 55' package of revised climate and energy laws - aiming to EU's legislation with the new climate target.

'The worst is yet to come'

Meanwhile, a leaked draft of a United Nations report has pictured how climate change will reshape life in the coming decades.

It identifies 12 potential tipping points that might lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic events, such as the melting of polar ice sheets or the sudden transformation of the Amazon basin into savannah.

"The worst is yet to come, affecting our children's and grandchildren's lives much more than our own," the draft report says, according to the AFP news agency.

The World Meteorological Organization recently estimated a 40-percent chance that global temperatures will surpass the 1.5-degree threshold advocated by scientists for at least one year by 2026.

Last year, the average global temperature was about 1.2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. On current trends, the world is on course to more than three degrees warming by the end of the century.

Exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius would put many species at risk, increase the length of fire seasons, multiple climate disasters, and undermine food security. These and other devastating consequences will become evident before a child born today turns 30, according to the draft report.

"Life on earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems...humans cannot," it warns.

The report is expected to go under revision before is adopted in February 2022.

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