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EU Parliament backs 2050 climate neutral law


Parliament seeks greenhouse gas budget to 2050

Vote lays down Parliament's negotiating mandate on 2030 goal

Parliament confirms 60% 2030 emissions reduction target

  • Author
  • Frank Watson
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  • Jonathan Fox
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  • Coal Electric Power Natural Gas

London — The European Parliament adopted its negotiating mandate on a proposed EU climate law Oct. 7, seeking carbon neutrality by 2050 and confirming amendments it made to raise the bloc's nearer-term 2030 emissions reduction target to 60% below 1990 levels, the parliament said Oct. 8.

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The vote sets the stage for tough negotiations between the EU Parliament and Council over the bloc's 2030 emissions reduction goal, with a debate expected over the target itself, and whether the target will be absolute or allow the flexibility to be a net reduction -- allowing carbon sinks to help achieve the target.

"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," the Parliament said in a statement.

The Parliament backed the position with 392 votes for, 161 against and 142 abstentions, in a move that goes beyond the European Commission's proposed 55% emissions reduction by 2030.

The parliament's vote Oct. 7 confirmed the results of a vote it made Oct. 6 on amendments that would raise the 2030 target to 60%, and clears the way for negotiations with EU member states in the EU Council, once the Council has adopted a common position.

MEPs said they require that both the EU collectively, and all member states individually, must become climate-neutral by 2050 and that thereafter the EU shall achieve "negative emissions" – meaning the EU will adopt measures that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"The adoption of the report sends a clear message to the Commission and the Council, in light of the upcoming negotiations," said Swedish lawmaker Jytte Guteland of the center-left Socialists and Democrats party.

"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," she said in a statement.

The largest group in the EU Parliament, the center-right European Peoples Party, said it had abstained from the vote and that it was confident the EU Council would support the EC's proposed less stringent target of 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The EU's proposed climate law forms a core part of its planned energy transition, and indicates headwinds for demand for carbon-intensive fuels while creating a supportive regulatory environment for low-carbon energy and industrial processes such as renewable energy and hydrogen.

2050 greenhouse gas budget

The parliament also backed 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 2015 Paris Agreement.

To achieve that budget, the European Commission must propose by May 31, 2023, a trajectory at EU level on how to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, MEPs said.

The trajectory must take into account the total remaining EU GHG emissions until 2050 to limit the increase in temperature in accordance with the Paris Agreement, with the trajectory to be reviewed after each five-year global stocktake under the Paris deal, the parliament said.

Lawmakers also asked the EC to propose an interim emissions target for 2040 following an impact assessment, to ensure the EU is on track to reach its 2050 goal.

EP requests end to fossil fuel subsidies

The Parliament also requested the EU and member states to phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by Dec. 31, 2025 at the latest.

EU lawmakers also want to set up an EU Climate Change Council -- an independent scientific body tasked with assessing whether EU climate policy is consistent and to monitor progress, it said.

The EU's nearer-term 2030 emissions goal requires the EU Parliament and Council to reach a common position before it can become law.

The EC has said it wants to find agreement on the 2030 emissions goal and submit it to the United Nations as the EU's Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement before the end of 2020.