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European Commission unveils proposal for EU’s ‘first-ever’ climate law

“The European climate law is also a message to our international partners that this is the year to raise global ambition together, in the pursuit of our shared Paris Agreement goals.”

The European Commission (EC) has unveiled proposals for its first-ever climate law, which will set down a target for the bloc to become climate neutral by 2050.

“We are acting today to make the EU the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) said when announcing the plan yesterday (4th March).

She added: “The climate law is the legal translation of our political commitment, and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future. It is the heart of the European Green Deal. It offers predictability and transparency for European industry and investors. And it gives direction to our green growth strategy and guarantees that the transition will be gradual and fair.”

The EU executive is also launching a public consultation on the future European Climate Pact. Through this consultation the public will be involved in co-designing this instrument.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans (@TimmermansEU) added: “We are turning words into action today, to show our European citizens that we are serious about reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“The European climate law is also a message to our international partners that this is the year to raise global ambition together, in the pursuit of our shared Paris Agreement goals. The climate law will ensure we stay focused and disciplined, remain on the right track and are accountable for delivery.”

With the European climate law, the Commission proposes a legally-binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The EU institutions and the member states are collectively bound to take the necessary measures at EU and national level to meet the target.

The Climate Law includes measures to keep track of progress and adjust the EU’s actions accordingly, based on existing systems such as the governance process for member states’ ‘National Energy and Climate Plans’, regular reports by the European Environment Agency, and the latest scientific evidence on climate change and its impacts. Progress will be reviewed every five years, in line with the global stocktake exercise under the Paris Agreement.

The climate law also addresses the pathway to get to the 2050 target:

  • Based on a comprehensive impact assessment, the Commission will propose a new 2030 EU target for greenhouse gas emission reductions. The Climate Law will be amended once the impact assessment is completed.
  • By June 2021, the Commission will review, and where necessary propose to revise, all relevant policy instruments to achieve the additional emission reductions for 2030.
  • The Commission proposes the setting of a 2030-2050 EU-wide trajectory for greenhouse gas emission reductions, to measure progress and give predictability to public authorities, businesses and citizens.
  • By September 2023, and every five years thereafter, the Commission will assess the consistency of EU and national measures with the climate-neutrality objective and the 2030-2050 trajectory.

The Commission will be empowered to issue recommendations to member states whose actions are inconsistent with the climate-neutrality objective, and member states will be obliged to take due account of these recommendations or to explain their reasoning if they fail to do so. The Commission can also review the adequacy of the trajectory and the Union wide measures.

Member States will also be required to develop and implement adaptation strategies to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

The EU executive’s plans have been met with criticism from some environmental groups. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said it failed to meet up to the EU’s Green Deal promises.

Barbara Mariani, Policy Manager for Climate and Energy at the EEB (@Green_Europe), said: “Today’s climate law is another serious missed opportunity. Climate action enjoys incredibly strong support among the public, with 92% of EU citizens wanting their governments to set more ambitious targets.

“By delaying action on increasing the EU’s 2030 climate targets and outlining concrete policy measures, Europe’s ‘man on the moon moment’ looks a lot more like ‘man stuck in traffic’. It’s essential that the European Parliament and member states drive higher ambition in this law to ensure that Europe embraces its responsibilities.”

Reacting to a leaked draft of the climate law proposal before it came out on 4 March, Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, said: “The European climate law risks becoming an empty shell as the leaked draft provides no clear roadmap on the EU’s trajectory to reach its agreed 2050 climate neutrality goal, 2030 being the main milestone.

“By proposing a 2030 target increase only in September, the Commission will give member states no time to reach an agreement by COP26 in November, the international deadline by which all countries must commit to new, ambitious climate pledges for 2030. The EU needs to have its own house in order, and quickly to push other countries to make substantial contributions well before the deadline.”

Zero Waste Europe Executive Director Joan Marc Simon told Bio Market Insights: “If your house is on fire, do you contact an insurance company for the future, or do you call the fire brigade? The climate law seems to ignore that we are in a state of climate emergency and that, next to planning for the next generation, radical action is needed today. A law that allows waste and resources to be burned for the next 30 years is not a climate emergency law.”

Speaking to Bio Market Insights, David Newman, Managing Director of the Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA), said that he applauded the EC’s ‘net zero by 2050’ commitment. However, he questioned where the “hard stuff” was.

He added: “In relation to the bioeconomy, we have not yet seen one single effective policy to promote markets for bio-based materials, despite billions spent on research into them – a silly contradiction.”

If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: EU chief likens Green New Deal to Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment and includes plan for biodegradable plastics framework.

Read: European Green Deal: Bioplastics to play a crucial role in making the deal become reality.

Read: Bioeconomy policy monitor

Read: Bioplastics to ‘play key role’ in implementation of circular economy and EU environmental directives.

Read: USDA proposes new GM rule.

Read: USDA amends its guidelines for designating bio-based products.

Read: European Commission urges industry to do more to boost recycled plastics market.

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