The EU should be climate-neutral by 2050

Aim: Climate protection – Team: Europe The EU should be climate-neutral by 2050

Climate protection is a team job: the rise in global temperature will only be limited in time – to an increase of significantly less than 2 degrees, if possible, under 1.5 degrees – if as many nations, companies and individuals as possible get involved. By 2050, Europe is to become the first continent to only produce unpreventable greenhouse gas emissions and to completely offset these low emissions.

During our Presidency of the Council of the EU we want to work towards concluding the council consultation on the draft of a European climate act that, in particular, stipulates the climate neutrality of the European Union by 2050 in a legally binding manner.

There are ambitious interim targets to be achieved on the way towards this goal. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposes raising the target for reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions from currently 40 percent to at least 55 percent compared to 1990. Under Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU, there has been an intensive exchange of ideas on this between member states with the aim of agreeing a new target by the end of the year.

EU contributes to Paris Agreement on climate change

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, nations from across the world have committed to setting ever more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change. They set themselves nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for this purpose. In the European Union, member states specify a joint contribution to reducing emissions.

Despite the strain caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, all nations party to the Paris Agreement are still required to improve their national contributions for the period to 2030. After all, the current challenges do not make any difference to the member states’ joint responsibility to limit global warming. It is essential for us to follow the Paris Agreement to find our way out of the coronavirus crisis and prepare ourselves for possible future crises. The EU is the biggest donor of internationally agreed funding for climate protection and adaptation to climate change in poorer countries. Germany, in turn, is the biggest contributor to this funding.

Instruments of EU climate policy

The European Commission is committed to the "Green Deal" as the political strategy for climate protection in the European Union. The Commission has announced many proposals to implement this strategy. The EU is already achieving a lot: for instance, emissions trading has existed in the EU since 2005. It generates a price for every tonne of CO2 - carbon dioxide emitted by industrial and energy companies as well as aviation within Europe and therefore creates incentives for reducing the use of fossil fuels.

The EU Effort Sharing Regulation specifies greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for every EU member state in sectors that are not covered by EU emissions trading – in particular, transport, construction and farming. States that do not achieve these targets must buy surplus emission allocations – basically rights to greenhouse gas emissions – from other EU member states.