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EU clinches deal on climate law, tougher 2030 emissions goal

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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

We have to fight global warming much faster - Merkel

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Not enough has been done to reduce carbon emissions to help tackle global warming, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) said last week, writes Kirsti Knolle, Reuters.

"This is not only true for Germany but for many countries in the world," Merkel told a news conference in Berlin, adding that it was important to implement measures compatible with climate goals in the Paris agreement.

Merkel, who stands down as chanceller later this year, said she had devoted much energy during her political career on climate protection but was very aware of the need for much speedier action.

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European Green Deal

Protecting Europe's seas: Commission launches public consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive

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The European Commission has launched a public consultation seeking the views of citizens, institutions and organizations from the public and private sectors on how to make the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive more efficient, effective and relevant to the ambitions set in the European Green Deal. Building on the initiatives announced under the European Green Deal, most notably the Zero Pollution Action Plan and the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, this review seeks to ensure that Europe's marine environment is governed by a robust framework, that keeps it clean and healthy whilst ensuring its sustainable use.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Healthy seas and oceans are essential to our wellbeing and to achieve our climate and biodiversity goals. However, human activities are negatively affecting life in our seas. Biodiversity loss and pollution continue to threaten marine life and habitats, and climate change poses enormous threats to the oceans and to the whole planet. We need to step up protection and care of our seas and oceans. That is why we need to take a close look at our current rules and, if need be, change them before it is too late. Your views on the marine environment are crucial in this process.”

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is the EU's main tool to protect the marine environment and aims to maintain healthy, productive and resilient marine ecosystems, while securing a more sustainable use of marine resources for the benefit of current and future generations. The review of the Directive will look in more detail at how it has performed so far, take into account findings by the Commission's Report on the Marine Strategy published in June 2020 and assess its suitability to tackle the cumulative impacts of human activities on the marine environment. The public consultation is open until 21 October. More information is in the news release here.

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Disasters

Germany sets out flood relief funding, hopes of finding survivors fade

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People remove debris and rubbish, following heavy rainfalls, in Bad Muenstereifel, North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany, July 21, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

A relief official dampened hopes on Wednesday (21 July) of finding more survivors in the rubble of villages devastated by floods in western Germany, as a poll showed many Germans felt policymakers had not done enough to protect them, write Kirsti Knolle and Riham Alkousaa.

At least 170 people died in last week's flooding, Germany's worst natural disaster in more than half a century, and thousands went missing.

"We are still looking for missing persons as we clear roads and pump water out of basements," Sabine Lackner, deputy chief of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

Any victims that are found now are likely to be dead, she said.

For immediate relief, the federal government will initially provide up to €200 million euros ($235.5m) in emergency aid, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said more funds can be made available if needed.

That will come on top of at least €250m to be provided from the affected states to repair buildings and damaged local infrastructure and to help people in crisis situations.

Scholz said the government would contribute to the cost of rebuilding infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The full extent of the damage is not clear, but Scholz said that rebuilding after previous floods cost about 6 billion euros.

Interior minister Horst Seehofer, who faced calls from opposition politicians to resign over the high death toll from the floods, said there would be no shortage of money for reconstruction.

"That is why people pay taxes, so that they can receive help in situations like this. Not everything can be insured," he told a news conference.

The floods are estimated to have caused more than 1 billion euros in insured losses, actuary company MSK said on Tuesday.

The overall damage is expected to be much higher as only around 45% of homeowners in Germany have insurance that covers flood damage, according to figures from Germany's insurance industry association GDV.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio the aid would include funds to help businesses such as restaurants or hair salons make up for lost revenue.

The floods have dominated the political agenda less than three months before a national election in September and raised uncomfortable questions about why Europe's richest economy was caught flat-footed.

Two-thirds of Germans believe that federal and regional policymakers should have done more to protect communities from floods, a survey by the INSA institute for German mass-circulation paper Bild showed on Wednesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, visiting the devastated town of Bad Muenstereifel on Tuesday, said authorities would look at what had not worked after being widely accused of not being prepared despite weather warnings from meteorologists.

($1 = €0.8490)

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