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European Commission Proposes New Climate Law and Launches Public Consultation

Earlier this month, the European Commission published its proposal for a regulation establishing a European Climate Law and launched a related public consultation on the so-called European Climate Pact. Feedback for the consultation can be provided until 27 May 2020. The proposal contains a binding commitment to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. In the words of President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the law would “make the EU the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.” According to von der Leyen, the Climate Law is the legal translation of the EU’s political commitment, and the heart of the European Green Deal.

In its Article 2(1), the proposed European Climate Law sets a binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: “ Union-wide emissions and removals of greenhouse gases regulated in Union law shall be balanced at the latest by 2050, thus reducing emissions to net zero by that date ”. It is important to note that the proposal will cover all sectors and all greenhouse gases - not only CO².

The proposal contains specific timeframes for taking certain actions. According to Article 2(3) of the proposal, “[ b ] y September 2020, the Commission shall review the Union’s 2030 target for climate referred to in Article 2(11) of Regulation 2018/1999 in light of the climate-neutrality objective […] , and explore options for a new 2030 target of 50 to 55% emission reductions compared to 1990. Where the Commission considers that it is necessary to amend that target, it shall make proposals to the European Parliament and to the Council as appropriate .”

Article 2(4) of the proposal shows that the European Commission recognises the need to revise policies related to emissions reduction, stating that “[ b ] y 30 June 2021, the Commission shall assess how the Union legislation implementing the Union’s 2030 target would need to be amended in order to enable the achievement of 50 to 55 % emission reductions compared to 1990 and to achieve the climate-neutrality-objective […] , and consider taking the necessary measures, including the adoption of legislative proposals […]. This would confer upon the European Commission significant power over setting interim targets after 2030 using delegated acts, which can be vetoed by the EU Council and the European Parliament during a scrutiny period, but to which the EU Council and the European Parliament cannot provide inputs to drafting or amendments.

Article 4 of the proposal recognises the need for adaptation to climate change. Despite mitigation efforts taken so far, climate change already causes heavy burdens in Europe, which will continue to rise. Therefore, the European Commission determined that strengthening efforts to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to be crucial.

The proposal empowers the Commission in its Article 3(1) to adopt delegated acts to supplement the proposed Regulation by setting out a trajectory at Union level to achieve the above climate-neutrality objective until 2050. To this effect, the European Commission shall, by 30 September 2023, and every 5 years thereafter, (i) assess the collective progress made by all Member States towards the achievement of the climate-neutrality objective and towards their adaptation to climate change; (ii) review the consistency of both EU and national measures with the climate-neutrality objective; and (iii) the adequacy of both EU and national measures to ensure progress on adaptation to climate change (Articles 4 to 6).

The European Commission will be empowered to issue recommendations to Member States whose actions are found to be inconsistent with the climate-neutrality objective or inadequate to ensure progress on adaptation to climate change of which the Member States shall take due account and provide progress reports.

The assessment of the European Commission shall be based on (i) information submitted and reported under Regulation 2018/1999; (ii) reports of the European Environment Agency (“ EEA ”); (iii) European statistics and data, including data on losses from adverse climate impacts, where available; (iv) best available scientific evidence, including the latest reports of the IPCC; and (v) any supplementary information on environmentally sustainable investment. The EEA shall assist the Commission in the preparation of the assessment.

In order to involve all parts of society and economic sectors in the transition to climate-neutrality, the European Commission also launched a public consultation on the so-called European Climate Pact.

The upcoming European Climate Pact aims to engage citizens, communities and organisations in European environmental policies by giving them “ a voice and role in designing new climate actions, sharing information, launching grassroots activities and showcasing solutions that others can follow ”. The input from this public consultation will be used to shape the Pact ahead of its launch, which will take place before the United Nations climate change conference (COP26) of November 2020.

Feedback can be provided until 27 May 2020 by responding to the questionnaire available on this page of the website of the European Commission.

For more information, see the press release published by the European Commission, the press statement made by Ursula von der Leyen , and the Commission’s Q&A on the European Climate Law .

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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