Europe Daily Bulletin No. 12576

8 October 2020
Under ‘Climate Law’, European Parliament approves target of a 60% reduction in EU emissions by 2030
Brussels, 07/10/2020 (Agence Europe)

On Wednesday 7 October, MEPs approved an amendment to the “climate law” that would raise the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target for 2030 to 60%, from the current 40% (compared to 1990 levels). 

This is an important victory for the climate and for our future”, said Jytte Guteland (S&D, Sweden), the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the ‘climate law’, describing the vote as a “historic moment”.

According to her, Parliament has thus adopted “a firm position” to bring EU climate efforts more in line with science and citizens’ demands.

We are more than ever leading on climate ambition”, said Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe, France), Chairman of the Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI).

The same goes for the Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL groups, although both groups reiterated that they would have preferred an even more ambitious target (-65% for the former and -70% for the latter).

The EPP, on the other hand, is a bit more pessimistic. For the coordinator of the group, Peter Liese (German), a reduction of 60% “would definitely be a too high burden”, not only for industry, but also for each individual, and represents only a “tactical choice” in view of the inter-institutional negotiations (‘trilogues’) (see EUROPE 12575/15)

In line with the European Commission’s proposal (see EUROPE 12562/1; 12569/9), the group advocated a net reduction (taking into account CO2 removals by carbon sinks such as forests) of at least 55%.

A close vote

Although the vote was very close, the majority in favour of the amendment eventually won by 26 votes (352 in favour, 326 against and 18 abstentions).

As expected, all Greens/EFA members of the GUE/NGL supported this new objective, as well as a very large majority of the S&D group (133 in favour, 0 against and 9 abstentions) and Renew Europe (75 in favour, 23 against and 1 abstention).

More surprisingly: 16 EPP MEPs, including 5 Poles, 2 Slovaks and 2 Czechs, as well as 2 members of the ID Group, also voted in favour of the amendment, while their groups were largely opposed. 

The members of the ECR Group, for their part, all voted against the text.

Climate neutrality for each Member State

Other amendments significantly modifying the Commission’s original proposal (see EUROPE 12439/2) were also adopted.

With the support of the EPP this time, MEPs thus validated the amendment to apply the 2050 climate neutrality target to each Member State individually (and not just to the EU as a whole), as well as the amendment calling on the Commission to ensure that any new measures are consistent with the climate neutrality target.

They also spoke in favour of: (1) the creation of a ‘European Council on Climate Change (ECCC)’ (see EUROPE 12568/6); (2) the presentation of a budget setting out the total amount of GHGs (in CO2 equivalent) that could be emitted until 2050 at the latest without jeopardising the Union’s commitments under the Paris agreement; (3) improving access to justice to enable citizens to take legal action against their governments if they fail to meet their climate commitments.

Purpose of fossil subsidies

In addition, Parliament proposes that all Member States should phase out all direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels as soon as possible and by 2025 at the latest.

With only two votes in favour (341 in favour, 339 against and 13 abstentions), they furthermore validated the proposal to “end protection of investments in fossil fuels in the context of the modernisation of the Energy Charter Treaty(see EUROPE 12558/9).

Finally, the parliamentarians also advocated the mandatory introduction of “climate adaptation stress tests” for all new infrastructure projects considered particularly vulnerable to the impact of change and financed by European funds.

An objective that may be too high for the Council

If this is a victory for the political groups on the left of the Chamber, the hardest part is probably still to come: convincing the EU Council in future trilogues.

The majority of Member States would indeed support a target of at least 55% (see EUROPE 12572/10).

According to Peter Liese, it is thus certain that the Council will “bring us back” to the initial Commission proposal (-55% net).

Parliament will nevertheless be able to count on the support of Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Environment ministers Krista Mikkonen and Isabella Lövin welcomed the vote on Twitter, pledging to defend an ambitious goal in the Council.

Finally, it should be noted that, at the time of going to press, Parliament’s vote on Mrs Guteland’s amended report on the climate law’ as a whole was not yet known.

However, it should be easily approved, given that the EPP has made it known that it will not oppose the ‘climate law’, but will abstain, due to the “unrealistic and tactically motivated” goal of - 60%. (Original version in French by Damien Genicot)