The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council aims to establish the regulatory framework to achieve climate neutrality in a legally binding manner through the first European Climate Law. This law is established within the European Green Deal; the green agreement of the European Commission (EC) to make the EU economy one of sustainable.
And not to mention the increase in the planet's global temperature, as well as the temperature of the sea, in addition to the melting of glaciers that cause a rise in sea level and flooding of islands and coastal cities, without forgetting the increase in torrential rains and devastating hurricanes and a host of additional consequences such as the proliferation of diseases and pandemics due to the destruction of nature and biodiversity, such as the Covid-19 we are currently experiencing.
So, to deal effectively the climate change our planet is suffering, the European Green Deal was launched on 11 December 2019 with the aim of making the EU the first climate-neutral continent and transforming the way we live, work and move.
What does the European Green Deal aim to achieve?
"It will allow us to be self-sufficient, global leaders. However, we have to act now. Therefore, the European Commission has prepared 3 concrete actions that will provide a solid basis for the new agreement. Firstly, a European Green Deal Investment Plan will support one billion euros of investment over the next decade. Second, in March 2020 we will propose the first European Climate Law, to make the transition irreversible. Thirdly, a Just Transition Fund will leverage public and private money with the help of the European Investment Bank, to help those who will have to take a bigger step. We, the Europeans, are ready to contribute to a Global Green Deal", according to the European Commission's official sources.
This is why the European Union's strategy encompasses:
- The conversion of the economy (and all its sectors)
In a modern and sustainable one that includes a just and inclusive transition, placing particular emphasis on the transport and energy industries.
- Economic growth linked to an efficient use of resources (and buildings)
Enabling a clean and circular economy and, consequently, generating quality employment.
- Pollution reduction and ozone layer protection
Through emissions neutrality, energy decarbonisation, sustainable mobility and renewable energy sources.
- Investment in innovation
To enable the development of environmentally friendly technologies
- Biodiversity restoration and protection
Including forests and land, as well as improving agriculture and the food chain.
Well, for this roadmap to be effective and real, the EU has established a global action plan that includes 50 concrete actions to mitigate the effects of climate change and has begun to mobilise since the end of last year.
What has been the chronology of actions?
Thus, the chronology since the launch of the Green Deal in December 2019 has been as follows:
- 14 January 2020
Presentation of the European Green Deal Investment Plan and the Just Transition Mechanism, which will ensure that no one is left behind, meaning that all regions are included: those that are most disadvantaged in socio-economic terms and even those whose economies depend on the carbon industry, such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The fund for this transition will be at least EUR 100 billion.
- 4 March 2020
On the one hand, proposal of the first European Climate Law to guarantee the climate neutrality of the European Union by 2050.
On the other hand, public consultation (closed on 17 June 2020), on the European Climate Pact, bringing together regions, local communities, civil society, businesses and schools.
This Pact, therefore, aims to involve both citizens and communities in committing to climate action, as the climate transition will mean a before and an after for people's lives and daily lives. Its formulation will be launched before COP26, which will be held a priori in Glasgow in November 2020.
- 10 March 2020
Adoption of the European Industrial Strategy: a plan for a future-ready green economy.
- 11 March 2020
Proposal for a Circular Economy Action Plan focusing on a sustainable resource use.
- 20 May 2020
On the one hand, presentation of the “Farm to fork strategy” to increase the sustainability of food systems and ensure a healthier food chain that includes greener and less chemical-intensive agriculture.
On the other hand, presentation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030; aimed to protect our planet's fragile natural resources and to restore biodiversity.
In this sense, Europe wants to plant no more and no less than 3 billion trees by 2030. This is why the strategy includes the investment of 20000 million euros per year in biodiversity alone until 2030.
- 8 July 2020
Adoption of the EU strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen as a substitute for natural gas and with the aim of paving the way towards a totally decarbonised, more efficient and interconnected energy sector.
"The global challenges of climate change and environmental degradation call for a global response. The EU will continue to promote its environmental objectives and standards in the UN conventions on biodiversity and climate and strengthen its green diplomacy. The G7, the G20, international conventions and bilateral relations will serve to convince others to redouble their efforts. The EU will also use trade policy to ensure sustainability and build partnerships with the Balkan and African neighbours to help them in their own transitions", according to official European Commission sources.
We are left with the words of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen: "The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy, growth that brings in more than it consumes. It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming, so that we live more healthily".
Today we are consuming the resources of almost two entire planets. Will we be truly able to reverse this situation?
Now, to the point, we're going to beat around the bush!
What is the objective of the European Climate Law?
The law, once approved by the European Council and Parliament, will become a regulation directly applicable in all Member States, which will have to apply the necessary measures both at European and national level to achieve the great legally binding objective: neutrality in greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050.
As mentioned above, the first draft of the law was published in March 2020, but President Ursula Von der Leyen already announced the creation of this law in December 2019, in the midst of the decaffeinated and controversial COP25 (the UN Conference on Climate Change).
The new roadmap for the decarbonisation of Europe was announced and created in pursuit of the objective of the Paris Agreement; not to exceed a 2°C increase in global temperature and, if possible, to limit it to a maximum of 1.5°C.
This law also finally establishes a legal framework for achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement. As President Ursula von der Leyen said: "We are acting now to make the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Climate Act is the legal expression of our political commitment and irreversibly sets us on the path towards a more sustainable future".
Therefore, the law states that 2050 is the deadline for achieving climate neutrality, meaning that all greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere must be absorbed and compensated by our forests.
In addition, the proposed law also provides that all Member States will have to develop and implement climate change adaptation strategies.
How will the European Climate Law be implemented?
To achieve this goal, in addition to ensuring that the transition to neutrality is irreversible, the law includes measures that will allow progress to be monitored and evaluated and additional actions to be adjusted if necessary.
Such actions would be carried out on the basis of existing systems, such as regular reports from the European Environment Agency, the latest scientific data on climate change and the Regulation on the Governance of Member States' National Energy and Climate Plans.
This regulation sets the guidelines for achieving energy efficiency and emission reductions through renewable energy. In addition, it also requires Member States to submit their National Integrated Energy and Climate Plans, as Spain, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark have already done; which have submitted the most comprehensive and ambitious plans and strongly support the European Climate Law to combat the climate emergency.
In order to comply with the Paris Agreements and to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C, emissions should be reduced by 40% by 2030. However, the European Commission wants to consider increasing the cut in these emissions, in other words from a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 1990) to 50% or even 55%.
Nevertheless, although the current draft law does not specify what the increase in the emission reduction target for 2030 will be, the Commission has chosen to wait until mid-2021 to take a decision on the matter. To be more specific, the Commission will wait until June 2021 to receive all the National Energy and Climate Plans submitted by the Member States to analyse them and assess whether further emission cuts are needed.
Thus, in order to achieve the major objective of climate neutrality, it is necessary to set intermediate targets. Therefore, from 2021 onwards, a timetable of actions will be put in place, covering a first period 2021-2030 and a second period 2030-2050.
In this second period, it is established that every five years the Commission will evaluate the joint progress of the European Union and the individual progress of each member country to ensure proper compliance with the law and the objectives set. And this includes that the Commission will have the power to "adopt delegated acts" and to give recommendations to the Member States whose actions are not in line with the established objective of decarbonisation.
What exactly does the concept of climate neutrality mean?
The goal of the law is that emissions and removals of greenhouse gases throughout the European Union should be balanced by 2050, so that net emissions are reduced to zero.
This means that, from 2050, the emissions balance must be net or 100%, which means that all those gases emitted can be absorbed through natural sinks (forests and trees that today are only capable of capturing 20% of total emissions) or artificial ones; a technology that has yet to be developed.
Therefore, climate neutrality directly affects multiple sectors, especially the carbon industry, including the automotive sector in terms of combustion engines and the energy sector.
However, this does not mean that greenhouse gases will no longer be emitted, as those sectors that do not have green alternatives for their performance, such as air transport, could. But as long as these emissions are compensated, the goal has been achieved!
An ambitious climate law but one that lacks extreme urgency
Although this law was extremely necessary and despite the fact that Europe wants to lead the climate action worldwide, we join the critics made by entities such as Greenpeace or WWF (World Wildlife Fund): the European Climate Law is an indispensable roadmap to avoid irreversible global warming, but it is not, by far, a sufficient proposal to combat the climate emergency we are living TODAY.
We need drastic emission reduction measures NOW, not by 2050. We need strong and robust goals for 2030 that push massive emission reductions forward from today. To this end, twelve Member States (Spain, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden) have called on the European Union to tighten up its emissions reduction schedule before the COP26 in Glasgow.
During the last decade, we are living the hottest years ever recorded and suffering the most extreme weather phenomena (forest fires, heat waves, floods, torrential rains...). During the last 50 years, almost 70% of the planet's wildlife has been lost, with the consequent loss of biodiversity and the multiple consequences that all this implies.
The European Union (and the whole world) needs the decarbonisation of both the energy sector through renewable energies and the transport sector through the promotion of the electric vehicle and the cessation of support for fossil fuels. We need a circular economy that generates zero emissions and whose recycling processes are increasingly reduced. And we need a plastic-free economy to achieve seas and oceans free of rubbish and pollution.
The EU seems determined to fight climate change, but it must do so much more urgently, in a more drastic way and by encouraging greater global ambition.
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