ALL ABOUT THE EU CLIMATE LAW

We are Adélaïde Charlier and Anuna De Wever.
Two climate activists that launched the youth for climate movement in Belgium. Internationally known as Fridays For Future. We striked for weeks and weeks for more than a year, we worked together with scientists, politicians and activists. We recently sailed to Latin America to attend the UN Climate Change Conference in Chile and to understand the threat on the amazon forest and the global south facing the direct consequences of climate change already.
After this, we felt like it was time for our activism to evolve and for us to get closer to the decision-making process at the European level. We started an internship in the Greens/EFA group in February 2020 and decided to write regular open reports to share information on the preparation of the green deal within the Parliament.

We want to build the bridge between the climate activists in the streets and the politicians in the parliament. We would like to offer the young activists more information about the internal tradeoffs to pressure the right points and debate with our politicians to show them there are millions of people all around the world ready and waiting for change.
 
With this report we will follow the different steps of the green deal and try to identify the weak spots which will require external pressure. 
 
The European Green Deal is a pact that was launched by the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. It aims to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. According to the European Commission this is the greatest challenge and opportunity of our times; the European Green Deal is the most ambitious package of measures that should enable European citizens and businesses to benefit from a sustainable green transition. Measures accompanied by an initial plan of key policies range from ambitiously cutting emissions, to investing in cutting-edge research and innovation, to preserving Europe’s natural environment.
 
But let us pause for a second and tell you in a few lines what the European Union actually is, and what they do. 

INTRODUCTION TO THE EUROPEAN UNION

  • The European Union is composed of 3 institutions: the Commission, Parliament, and Council. All of them have a different role to play in producing new legislation.
  • The Commission is the EU’s executive body. It proposes new EU legislation and ensures its correct application.
  • The Parliament represents EU citizens. It’s composed of 705 directly-elected MEPs from 27 countries. It acts as a co-legislator with the Council on all EU law.
  • The Council brings together the heads of state/governments of the EU Member States. It makes decisions on broad political priorities but it does not have legislative power.

Now going back to the plan to resolve climate change!
The Green Deal is this pact that was released by the Commission. Like mentioned earlier, the main goal of this pact is for Europe to be the first CO2 neutral continent in 2050. The Commission presented an initial roadmap of the key policies and measures needed to achieve the European Green Deal. Its main elements are in the graphic below. The Commission’s vision for carbon neutrality in 2050 is to be translated into a climate law. The law will enshrine the 2050 climate neutrality objective in legislation. The climate law should also ensure that all EU policies contribute to the climate neutrality objective and that all sectors play their part.
The climate law is consequently one of the most important parts of the green deal.
We’ll talk more in depth about it in next paragraph. 

How was the European climate law born? 

  1. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. This includes a long-term goal to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to keep it to below 1.5°C.
  2. The Commission set out a long-term vision on 28 November 2018 that includes climate neutrality by 2050.
  3. The European Council endorsed the objective of EU climate neutrality by 2050, on 12 December 2019. In the political guidelines for the next European Commission, a ‘European Green Deal’ was announced. This includes the first European climate law.
  4. The climate law was proposed on 4 March by the Commission. It now needs to be approved by the Parliament and the Council.

What does this Climate law include? This is what the EU is communicating:

  1. it aims to ensure an ambitious and just EU climate policy;
  2. it contributes to the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, including its long-term goal to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to keep it to below 1.5°C;
  3. it will enshrine the EU objective of climate neutrality objective by 2050 in legislation, and urges all sectors to play their part.

Our View:

  • The draft climate law presented by the Commission on 4 March is not sufficient to address the set objectives. The proposed law is not based on the current best available science and does not include the global aspect of equity or climate justice – principles at the very heart of the Paris Agreement.Indeed, the climate law sets the objective for 2050 but not for 2030 or earlier. The Commission wants to present an impact assessment before they can put the target in the law. By summer 2020, they will present an impact-assessed plan to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reductions target for 2030 to at least 50% and towards 55% compared with 1990 levels in a responsible way.
  • This target of 50% towards 55% is way too low if we look at what the IPCC is telling us. For now, the climate law has no 2030 target and if we look at the Commission’s future proposal it will not have a sufficient target that will ensure the global temperature increase sticks to well below 2°C (above pre-industrial levels) or to pursue efforts to keep it to below 1.5°C.
    This is why it is highly important to put pressure on lawmakers inside the institutions and outside to raise the ambition for this 2030 target.

The 2030 target

  • The climate law set an objective of a 40% reduction by 2030, and opened the negotiation of a target from 50 to 55%. Those numbers might sound a bit random, but what will be really necessary to reach the 1.5°C goal according to the IPCC?
  • We have a carbon budget of less than 340 Gt of CO2 left to emit globally to stay within that target. With today’s business-as-usual that budget will only last for about eight more years. So cutting 50% by 2030 gives us much less than a 50% chance of staying below a 1.5°C global average temperature rise. And these ‘insufficient’ odds do not even include most feedback loops, tipping points or additional warming hidden by life-threatening air pollution.
  • Also, since this budget is global it does not include the essential aspect of equity. This means that we (in the EU) would still need to make much more than a 50% reduction by 2030 to compensate for the emissions of developing countries.
     
    This means that the 2030 target negotiated today is, as all climate policies once again, ignoring the carbon budgets. 

Is the European climate law binding?

  • We asked the Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, if the climate law would be binding and if it would be a regulation or a directive. He told us that the EU is not a dictatorship and that they can only ‘push’ member states to do the right things. The Commission will want to be a facilitator and they can lead by example, but they can’t force member states to follow Europe.
  • This raises questions about the effectiveness of the law and if this is not just a symbolic action of the EU? Should it contain sanctions, for those that fail to take care of the planet? And is a law that no one has to follow really a law?
  • Afterwards, we talked to Michael Bloss, who is an MEP from the Greens/EFA group. He told us the climate law would indeed not be binding directly towards individuals or member states. So if a member state wouldn’t reach the target, it wouldn’t face sanctions. But the climate law would obligate all other EU regulations to change and be in line with the target, which means indirectly it is binding and it means much more than just something symbolic.

Why the urgency of the Commission to present their risk assessment before summer?

  • The Commission will present a ‘risk assessment’ the 50-55% target. This risk assessment will have a big influence on what the Council and the Parliament will vote for. Right now, the Parliament has a majority for the 55% target. The council is negotiating between 40-55%.
  • First of all, let’s notice the fact that the Commission never made a risk assessment for a 60%-65% or even a 70% target. This means the 55% target is politically the best chance we have for the 2030 target.
  • Second of all, the risk assessment will be presented after summer. Normally after a risk assessment is presented there will be debates about the assessment and if it is well calculated or not. This would mean that the process will take so long that by COP 26 in November there will be no agreement yet on the 2030 target in the climate law.
  • Already 12 member states of the EU have formally asked the Commission to present the risk assessment earlier, because everybody realises what’s at stake. If there is no agreement at COP26 it might never happen. Because after this COP, the negotiations will be about 2030-2035.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
Join the campaign!
Help us in calling for an ambitious Climate Law

http://tilt.green/climatelaw

We are ready. Why aren’t you?
Put pressure on leaders in any possible way. Inside and outside. Make people aware of the climate law and mobilise others to join us. Join your local Fridays for Future movement, join your local strikes, and obviously vote for your future. 
 
Links to websites that can help you further:
 
https://youthforclimate.be/nl/
https://www.fridaysforfuture.org
https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/calendar