The EU Climate Law delivers the world’s largest climate framework law but falls short of delivering climate ambition

Publish date: April 21, 2021

Bellona Europa Press Release

The European Climate Law is a much-needed framework that sets the EU on a path to climate neutrality by 2050 and seeks to create the framework for successfully implementing the Paris Agreement by the European Union Member States. It is a monumental achievement in many respects, which ensures the EU as a whole will cease to contribute to climate change in 29 years and will seek to draw down more CO2 than it emits after that. Furthermore, it is the first climate law in the world of this magnitude and makes the EU a frontrunner in establishing climate legislation covering over 30 countries.

However, it is not only the destination that is important but the journey we take to reach it. In this respect, the Climate Law fails to rise to the challenge. The 2030 target agreed today is only a minor improvement on the EU’s current emissions trajectory and misses a huge opportunity to set an ambitious strategic direction that will need to happen sooner rather than later.

At Bellona Europa, we welcome the separation between removals and emissions reductions, which was a key ask we made. It is critical that a potential increase in the sink does not lead a lower target to reduce emissions. In reality each of these need to be scaled up rapidly and each need to be put on a pathway compatible with climate neutrality – unfortunately, this is where the Climate Law has fallen short, by proposing a below adequate level of reductions for 2030 and a constrained pool for removals, none of these two can be safely considered to be compatible with climate neutrality.

Last but certainly not least, the establishment of an Independent Advisory Scientific Committee on Climate Change at the European Level is a huge success; in the future, this will go some way to prevent political discussions from taking over the scientific basis of the EU’s climate targets, which is what happened with the 2030 target.

Suzana Carp, Political Strategy Director: “It is good we have clarity over the level of reductions we will pursue 2030, even if at the moment it is clarity over just how unambitious the EU target is. Let’s not forget the 2020 target was reached six years ahead, and this could well happen to the 2030 target, certainly if the EU is serious about building back greener after the pandemic. We pushed hard for the separation between removals and reductions to have clarity. Now, this clarity also means the June package will have to be tailored and amended to deliver more, as it happened with the Clean Energy Package”.

Mark Preston, Policy Adviser: “Carbon removal methods are likely to be necessary, and the appropriate governance framework should be in place to ensure they are effective at both removing carbon from the atmosphere and enhancing climate action more generally, rather than delaying it. EU legislators have made the right move in capping the contribution of the land sink to the target and ensuring a higher improvement in the sink will not affect the rate at which we reduce emissions. Further clarity may be necessary on the role of other sinks but this is a significant improvement to the Commission’s original proposal.”

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