Citizens often turn to the European Parliament to ask what the European Union (EU) is doing to address climate change.
The atmosphere is warming, the climate is changing and ecosystems are more at risk with each passing year. The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C compared with pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. Today, the global temperature is estimated at 1.07°C above pre-industrial levels. Without gradual substantial cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, aligned with fixed targets for 2030 and 2050, we will exceed the 2°C limit before 2050.
The EU is taking a whole series of measures to place its economy and society on a sustainable path that protects citizens and the environment on a long-term basis.
These climate ambitions are reflected in the EU budget. In the long-term budget for 2021‑2027, €356 billion is set aside for protecting natural resources and the climate. Additionally, the EU has pledged 30 % of the cohesion and regional development funds, two of the largest EU subsidy packages, to climate objectives.
European Climate Law
In June 2021, the EU adopted the European Climate law, which sets the European Green Deal goals into law – that the EU will become climate neutral by 2050, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 % by 2030, compared to emissions in 1990. It also establishes a framework for achieving these objectives.
Realising the European Climate Law objectives: Fit for 55
In July 2021, the European Commission presented the Fit for 55 package, a set of legislative proposals aimed at reducing emissions by 55 % by 2030. Council and Parliament adopted their respective positions on the proposals in summer 2022, and will now negotiate an agreement on the final texts. You will find updated information on the Legislative Trains website.
Among the many proposed changes, the following can be highlighted:
As regards transport, specific legislative proposals address emission reductions and alternative fuels for aviation, road transport and maritime transport. For instance, CO2 emission standards for new cars would become stricter. From 2035, all new cars and vans sold in the EU would need to be ‘zero-emission’, meaning they would not have an internal combustion engine.
To make the energy sector more sustainable, at least 40 % of energy would be required to come from renewable sources by 2030, an increase on the current target of 32 %.
The scope of the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) would be expanded to include maritime and aviation transport emissions, in addition to the sectors currently covered (electricity and heat generation, energy-intensive industries and aviation within Europe). Overall emissions from sectors covered by the system would have to be reduced by 61 % by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
As regards buildings, new rules would aim to tackle the issues of energy poverty, as well as poor building insulation, which represents 40 % of the energy consumed.
The EU supports and involves citizens
With the Social Climate Fund, the EU plans to offer financial help for households, micro-enterprises and transport users that are particularly affected by the impact of the proposed changes.
The European Commission has also launched the European Climate Pact, an EU-wide initiative inviting people, communities and organisations to participate in climate action. It aims to involve the public in the transition to a greener Europe by inviting citizens to connect and share knowledge, learn about climate change and develop and implement solutions.
European Parliament position
Since its 2018 resolution on the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice (COP24), Parliament has consistently highlighted the importance of implementing an ambitious climate policy.
Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the European Parliament called for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels by 2025, and for the G20 to commit to climate neutrality by 2050. Parliament also called for international measures to protect ecosystems that store large amounts of carbon, such as peatland. It also called upon developed nations to honour their promise to provide US$100 billion in climate finance to developing countries to assist in their green transition.
In June 2022, Parliament adopted its position on eight EU proposals that are part of the Fit for 55 package. Parliament encourages industries to further reduce their emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies. It has also called for measures helping those who are most affected by the proposed changes, such as people with high transport costs, to be expanded.
- European Green Deal, European Parliamentary Research Service, At a Glance, 2019
- European climate law, European Parliamentary Research Service, Briefing, August 2021
- Social climate fund: Fit for 55 package, Briefing, European Parliamentary Research Service, June 2022
- Fit for 55 package, Briefing, European Parliamentary Research Service, June 2022
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