The European Union and several other countries increased their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and achieve carbon neutrality at a virtual climate change summit hosted by US President Joe Biden in April. But there have been concerns about whether world leaders would win the support of their parliaments to enshrine the commitments in law.
As of Monday, only five countries had actually made their commitments legally binding, according to Climate Watch Data: the United Kingdom and New Zealand, as well as EU members, Hungary, Luxembourg and France.
Monday’s approval of the policy package is the final seal of the climate law, which the EU parliament passed last week. The EU has been working on this law since it launched its vision, as part of the European Green Deal, in 2019.
“I warmly welcome this last step in the adoption of the very first EU climate law which enshrines in legislation the objective of climate neutrality 2050”, said the Portuguese Minister of Environment and Action for the climate João Pedro Matos Fernandes in a press release. Portugal currently holds the EU Presidency.
Net zero is a scenario in which the number of greenhouse gases emitted is no greater than the amount removed from the atmosphere, largely through a method known as carbon capture. Some scientists and environmentalists criticize net zero plans for relying too heavily on technology that is not fully developed, saying the world should aim to completely reduce fossil fuel use and aim for low or zero carbon economies .
The new law seeks to limit its dependence on carbon capture by capping the amount at 225 megatonnes of carbon. It will also seek to become a carbon-negative economy – where it removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits – after 2050.
The European Commission has also agreed to propose an interim climate target for 2040, “if applicable”, within six months after a first “global assessment” of emissions carried out under the Paris agreement. The law states that a scientific council on climate change will be established to advise the EU on its policies.
The current increase in commitments from the EU – as well as other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom – aims to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial levels and well below 2 degrees. The International Panel on Climate Change paints a catastrophic picture in a 2-degree rise scenario, where an additional 1.7 billion people experience severe heat waves at least once every five years, the level of The sea rises an additional 10 centimeters and the coral reefs are practically wiped out. among other impacts.
But some environmentalists have warned that even the most ambitious commitments do not go far enough and are not enough to keep the temperature at 1.5 ° C.