European Commission proposes climate law

04 March, 2020

By ECCT staff writers


The European Commission has unveiled the "European Climate Law". According to the EU's official website, Europa, the proposed legislation would enshrine into law the EU's political commitment to be climate neutral by 2050, to protect the planet and its people. Besides setting the 2050 climate neutral target, the proposed law also aims to give predictability to public authorities, businesses and citizens. At the same time, the commission is launching a public consultation on the future European Climate Pact.


President Ursula von der Leyen is quoted in Europa as saying "We are acting today to make the EU the world's first climate neutral continent by 2050. 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."


In the same press release, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: "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."


Under the proposed law, there will be a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The EU Institutions and member states are collectively bound to take the necessary measures at the EU and national level to meet the target.
The Climate Law includes measures to keep track of progress and adjust actions accordingly, based on existing systems such as the governance process for EU 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.


Even before the proposal was unveiled it received criticism. Political conservatives criticised the proposed law as too ambitious while climate activists said it did not go far enough.

Climate activist, Greta Thunberg, and teenage school strike leaders across Europe accused the commission of ignoring climate science. The climate scientist, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a former vice-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the EU was aiming too low and its current targets on reducing emissions set in 2014 were not in line with the 1.5C goal. Van Ypersele said the EU should be aiming for carbon neutrality one decade earlier to set an example for the rest of the world. 

Go Top