Monday’s Climate Change Law was adopted by the European Council. It legally obliges its 27 member nations to cut greenhouse emissions by 55% between 1990 and 2030, and become a net zero-emissions economy by 2050.
At a virtual climate summit hosted by Joe Biden, the US President in April, several countries and the European Union increased their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. However, there were concerns about whether world leaders would be able to get the support of their parliaments in order to enshrine these pledges into law.
According to Climate Watch Data, only five countries had made their pledges legally binding as of Monday. This includes the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and EU members Hungary Luxembourg France.
Monday’s approval by the EU parliament of the package policy is the final seal to the EU climate law. It was passed last week. Since its vision was first presented under the European Green Deal in 2019, the EU has been working towards this law.
“I warmly appreciate this final step in the adoption of EU’s very first Climate Law which enshrines into law the 2050 climate neutrality goal,” Joao Pedro Matos, the Minister of Environment and Climate Action from Portugal said in a statement. Portugal currently holds the EU presidency.
“An agreement on European climate law was a priority for Portugal’s Presidency, and I am happy that we have succeeded in bringing it to the finish line.”
Net-zero refers to a situation where greenhouse gas emissions are not greater than what is removed from the atmosphere. This is achieved largely by carbon capture. Net-zero plans are criticized by scientists and environmentalists for being too dependent on undeveloped technology. They argue that the world should aim to reduce fossil fuel use and create low- or even zero-carbon economies.
This law will limit the country’s dependence on carbon capture and cap its carbon emissions at 225 megatons. After 2050, it will seek to be a negative-carbon economy. This is where it removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits.
The European Commission also agreed that it would propose a 2040 intermediate climate target “if necessary” within six months of a “global inventory” of all emissions under the Paris Agreement. A scientific board on climate change was established by the law to provide advice to the EU regarding its policies.
The EU, along with other countries including the US and UK, are increasing their pledges to keep the average global temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. According to the International Panel of Climate Change, a scenario of a 2-degree rise in temperature is a dire one. This means that 1.7 billion people will experience heatwaves at least every five years, and sea levels will rise another 10 cm. Coral reefs could also be destroyed.
However, environmentalists warn that even more ambitious pledges don’t go far enough and won’t be enough to stop temperature rise from rising to 1.5C.