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EU clinches deal on climate law, tougher 2030 emissions goal

Reuters

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The European Union clinched a deal in the early hours of Wednesday on a climate change law that commits the bloc to more than halving its net greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, writes Kate Abnett.

The deal arrives just in time for a summit of world leaders hosted by the U.S. government on Thursday and Friday, where the EU and other global powers will promote their pledges to protect the planet.

The European climate law sets the framework that will guide EU climate-related regulations in the coming decades, steering it towards reaching zero net emissions by 2050. That is a pathway which, if adopted globally, would limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

After months of wrangling and a full night of negotiations on Tuesday, negotiators representing the European Parliament and the 27 EU governments finished the law. The deal still needs formal approval from parliament and national governments.

The target to cut EU-wide net emissions by at least 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels, replaces a previous goal for a 40% cut. By 2019, EU emissions were already 24% lower than in 1990.

EU lawmakers had wanted to go further to 60% by 2030. Environmental campaigners had said the cut should be 65%.

Negotiators agreed to limit the amount of emissions removals that can be counted towards the 2030 target, to 225 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

That aims to ensure the goal is met by cutting emissions from polluting sectors, rather than relying on removing CO2 from the atmosphere through carbon-absorbing forests and wetlands.

The 2030 target sets the stage for a major package of EU regulations due in June to cut emissions faster this decade. They will include proposals to revamp the EU carbon market, tougher CO2 standards for cars, and a border tariff to impose CO2 costs on imports of polluting goods.

The climate law requires Brussels to create an independent body of 15 climate science experts, to monitor and advise on EU climate policies.

It must also calculate a greenhouse gas budget to confirm the total emissions the EU can produce from 2030-2050, without thwarting its climate goals.

"This is a landmark moment for the EU. We have reached an ambitious agreement to write our climate neutrality target into binding legislation, as a guide to our policies for the next 30 years," Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in a statement.

Climate change

Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans attends Petersberg Climate Dialogue

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Today (7 May), Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans participates in the 12th Petersberg Climate Dialogue, an annual high-level political meeting of over 30 ministers from around the world, co-hosted by the German government and the COP26 Presidency. The meeting will start at 14h CEST  today with remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Their speeches will be live-streamed here. This year's Petersberg Dialogue will focus on the preparations for the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. It will address pressing issues such as enhancing countries' climate-resilience and adaptation capacity, scaling up international climate finance, and promoting transparent international carbon market rules. The meeting will be held virtually for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission will publish Executive Vice-President Timmermans' remarks climate finance on Friday here. For more information see here.

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Environment

EU sets plan to promote rapid green transition of key industries

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The European Union aims to help industries slash greenhouse gas emissions by promoting a rapid expansion of investment in low-carbon technologies, partly through schemes with easier state aid rules, according to a draft policy plan seen by Reuters, writes Kate Abnett.

The EU's target to become climate neutral by 2050, helping curb dangerous global warming, will require a green transition in industrial sectors through a take-up of technologies like renewable hydrogen fuel and energy storage.

A draft of the European Commission's industrial strategy, to be published on Wednesday, outlines how Brussels will help speed investments in those strategic areas, plus others such as raw materials and semiconductors.

The EU is considering ways to support and speed up the rollout of Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI), where member states can pool resources for strategic technologies, the draft said.

IPCEIs allow EU governments to fund projects under easier rules pertaining to state subsidies and for companies to team up on projects that would be too large or risky for one firm alone.

"These projects could accelerate needed investments in the fields of hydrogen, 5G corridors, common data infrastructure and services, sustainable transport, blockchain or European Digital Innovation Hubs," the draft said.

It said some EU states plan to use money from a 672-billion-euro EU COVID-19 recovery fund towards these multi-country projects. Member states must spend 37% of their respective share of recovery funds to support climate objectives.

The Commission is also considering a support scheme, called "contracts for difference", that would guarantee a CO2 price to a project developer regardless of EU carbon market prices.

This could encourage investments in technologies like hydrogen produced from renewable energy. EU carbon prices soared to record highs on Tuesday, but remain far below the price at which analysts say renewable hydrogen could compete with the fossil fuel-based alternative. Read more.

The industry plan slots together with other EU measures to steer cash into green technologies, including its recently-agreed system to classify sustainable investments, and planned environmental standards for electric car batteries sold in Europe.

Brussels will also announce details this summer of a plan to impose carbon border costs on imports of polluting goods. That aims to level the playing field for EU industry and overseas firms by exposing them both to the same carbon price.

The draft industrial plan, reported by Reuters last week, updates a strategy the EU conceived before the COVID-19 pandemic heightened scrutiny of Europe's dependence on foreign suppliers in strategic areas. Read more.

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Agriculture

Commission extends flexibilities of Common Agricultural Policy checks for 2021

EU Reporter Correspondent

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With restrictions still in place across the EU, the Commission has adopted rules to extend to 2021 flexibilities for carrying out checks required for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support. The rules allow the replacement of on-farm visits with the use of alternative sources of evidence, including new technologies such as satellite imagery or geo-tagged photos. This will ensure reliable checks while respecting the restriction of movement and minimizing physical contact between farmers and inspectors.

Furthermore, the rules include flexibility around timing requirements for checks. This allows member states to postpone checks, notably to a period when movement restrictions are lifted. In addition, the rules comprise a reduction of the number of physical on-the-spot checks to be carried out for area and animal-related measures, rural development investments and market measures. These rules aim to ease the administrative burden of national paying agencies by adapting to current circumstances while still ensuring necessary controls for CAP support. More information on the CAP's management and control systems is available here. More information is also available here.

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