All member states must become climate neutral by 2050, says Parliament in a vote on the EU climate law, calling for ambitious 2030 and 2040 emissions reduction targets.
Parliament has adopted its negotiating mandate on the EU climate law with 392 votes for, 161 against and 142 abstentions. The new law aims to transform political promises that the EU will become climate neutral by 2050 into a binding obligation and to give European citizens and businesses the legal certainty and predictability they need to plan for the transformation.
MEPs insist that both the EU and all member states individually must become climate-neutral by 2050 and that thereafter the EU shall achieve “negative emissions”. They also call for sufficient financing to achieve this.
The Commission must propose by 31 May 2023, through the ordinary decision-making procedure, a trajectory at EU level on how to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, say MEPs. It must take into account the total remaining EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions until 2050 to limit the increase in temperature in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The trajectory shall be reviewed after each stocktake at global level.
MEPs also want to set up an EU Climate Change Council (ECCC) as an independent scientific body to assess whether policy is consistent and to monitor progress.
A more ambitious 2030-target needed
The EU’s current emissions reductions target for 2030 is 40% compared to 1990. The Commission recently proposed to increase this target to “at least 55%” in the amended proposal for an EU climate law. MEPs today raised the bar even further, calling for a reduction of 60% in 2030, adding that national targets shall be increased in a cost-efficient and fair way.
They also want an interim target for 2040 to be proposed by the Commission following an impact assessment, to ensure the EU is on track to reach its 2050 target.
Finally, the EU and member states must also phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 31 December 2025 at the latest, say MEPs, while they underline the need to continue efforts to combat energy poverty.
After the vote, Parliament rapporteur Jytte Guteland (S&D, Sweden) said: “The adoption of the report sends a clear message to the Commission and the Council, in light of the upcoming negotiations. We expect all member states to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and we need strong interim targets in 2030 and 2040 for the EU to achieve this.
"I’m also satisfied with the inclusion of a greenhouse gas budget, which sets out the total remaining quantity of emissions that can be emitted until 2050, without putting at risk the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.”
Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with member states once Council has agreed upon a common position.
Following the European Council decision (2019) to endorse the 2050 climate-neutrality objective, the Commission in March 2020 proposed the EU climate law that would make it a legal requirement for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050.
Parliament has played an important role in pushing for more ambitious EU climate legislation and declared a climate emergency on 28 November 2019.
Research shows public not concerned over climate crisis
- A sizeable majority of Europeans and Americans believe that climate change is happening. In all nine countries surveyed, an overwhelming majority of respondents say that the climate is probably or definitely changing – ranging from 83 per cent in the US to 95 per cent in Germany.
- Outright climate change denial is scarce in all of the countries surveyed. The USA and Sweden have the largest group of people who either doubt climate change or are convinced it is not happening, and, even here, it only comprises just over 10 per cent of those surveyed.
- However, over a third (35%) of those surveyed in the nine countries attribute climate change to a balance of natural and human processes – with this feeling most pronounced in France (44%), the Czech Republic (39%) and the US (38%). The plurality view among respondents is that it is caused “mainly by human activity”.
- A significant group of ‘soft’ attribution sceptics believe that, contrary to the scientific consensus, climate change is caused equally by human activities and natural processes: these constituencies range from 17 per cent in Spain to 44 per cent in France. When added to the “hard” attribution sceptics, who don’t believe human activity is a contributing factor to climate change, these sceptics together make up the majority in France, Poland, the Czech Republic and the USA.
- Majorities believe that climate change will have very negative consequences for life on earth in Spain (65%), Germany (64%), the UK (60%), Sweden (57%), the Czech Republic (56%) and Italy (51%). However, there is a significant minority of “impact sceptics” who believe the negative consequences will be outweighed by the positive - ranging from 17 per cent in the Czech Republic to 34 per cent in France. There is also a group in the middle who don’t see global warming as harmless, but think that negative consequences will also be balanced by positive ones. This “middle group” ranges from 12 per cent in Spain to 43 per cent in France.
- Most people don’t think their own lives will be strongly affected by climate change in the next fifteen years. Only in Italy, Germany and France do more than a quarter of people think their lives will be strongly disrupted by climate change by 2035 if no additional action is taken. While the prevailing view is that there will be some change to their lives, a considerable minority believe their lives won’t change at all as a result of unchecked climate change – with the largest group in the Czech Republic (26%) followed by Sweden (19%), the USA and Poland (18%), Germany (16%) and the UK (15%).
- Age makes a difference to views on climate change, but only in certain countries. Overall, younger people tend to be more likely to expect negative impacts of climate change on their lives by 2035 if nothing is done to address the issues. This trend is particularly strong in Germany; where negative impacts are expected by 36 per cent of 18-34 year olds (compared to 30% of 55- 74 year olds), Italy; (46% of 18-34 year olds compared to 33% of 55-74-year olds), Spain; (43% of 18-34 year olds compared to 32% of 55-74 year olds) and the UK; (36% of 18-34 year olds compared to 22% of 55-74 year olds).
- Imposing higher taxes on flights is only seen as the best option to reduce emissions from flights by a minority - ranging from 18 per cent in Spain to 30 per cent in the US and 36 per cent per cent in the UK. An outright ban on internal flights within countries is even less popular, enjoying most support in France (14%) and Germany (14%). The most popular policy for reducing emissions from plane travel is improving the train and bus networks, which is chosen as the best policy by a majority of respondents in Spain, Italy and Poland.
- Majorities in most countries are willing to persuade their friends and family to behave in a more climate-friendly way – with only 11 per cent in Italy and 18 per cent in Spain not willing to do this. However, nearly 40 per cent of people in the Czech Republic, France, the US and the UK would not contemplate this idea at all.
- There is widespread support for switching to a green energy firm to provide household energy. However, France and the US have large minorities (42% and 39% respectively) who would not consider a switch to green energy. This compares to just 14 per cent in Italy and 20 per cent in Spain who would not consider a change to green energy.
- Majorities in Europe are willing to reduce their meat consumption, but figures vary widely. Only a quarter of people in Italy and Germany are not willing to reduce their meat consumption, compared to 58 per cent of people in the Czech Republic, 50 per cent people in the US, and around 40 per cent in the Spain, the UK, Sweden and Poland.
Infographic: Timeline of climate change negotiations
US formally quits Paris climate deal amid election uncertainty
But the outcome of the tight US election contest will determine for how long. Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has promised to rejoin the agreement if elected.
The US still remains a party to the UNFCCC. Espinosa said the body will be “ready to assist the US in any effort in order to rejoin the Paris Agreement”.
Trump first announced his intention to withdraw the US from the pact in June 2017, arguing it would undermine the country’s economy.
The Trump administration formally served notice of the withdrawal to the United Nations on November 4, 2019, which took one year to take effect.
The departure makes the US the only country of 197 signatories to have withdrawn from the agreement, hashed out in 2015.
Current and former climate diplomats said the task of curbing global warming to safe levels would be tougher without the financial and diplomatic might of the US.
“This will be a lost opportunity for a collective global fight against climate change,” said Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, chair of the African Group of Negotiators in global climate talks.
A US exit would also create a “significant shortfall” in global climate finances, Gahouma-Bekale said, pointing to an Obama-era pledge to contribute $3bn to a fund to help vulnerable countries tackle climate change, of which only $1bn was delivered.
“The challenge to close the global ambition gap becomes much, much harder in the short term,” said Thom Woodroofe, a former diplomat in UN climate talks, now a senior adviser at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
However, other major emitters have doubled down on climate action even without guarantees the US will follow suit. China, Japan and South Korea have all pledged in recent weeks to become carbon neutral – a commitment already made by the European Union.
Those pledges will help drive the huge low-carbon investments needed to curb climate change. If the US were to re-enter the Paris accord, it would give those efforts “a massive shot in the arm”, Woodroofe said.
European and US investors with a collective $30 trillion in assets on Wednesday urged the country to quickly rejoin the Paris Agreement and warned the country risked falling behind in the global race to build a low-carbon economy.
Scientists say the world must cut emissions sharply this decade in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming.
The Rhodium Group said in 2020, the US will be at about 21 percent below 2005 levels. It added that under a second Trump administration, it expects US emissions would increase by more than 30 percent through 2035 from 2019 levels.
Obama’s White House had pledged to cut US emissions to 26-28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels under the Paris deal.
Biden is broadly expected to ramp up those goals if elected. He has promised to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 under a sweeping $2 trillion plan to transform the economy.
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