Current EU climate policy

Following the State of the Union address by the President of the European Commission, what is the way forward with regard to the EU climate targets and the European Climate Law?

After tabling its proposal for a 55 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990), the European Commission has submitted a Climate Target Plan, including an impact assessment, for a more ambitious 2030 target. The impact assessment will be the basis for further consultations in the Council and the European Parliament. The intention is to include the 2030 EU interim reduction target in the European Climate Law.

What are the key elements of the European Climate Law?

The aim is to enshrine the objective of EU-wide climate neutrality by 2050 in the European Climate Law. This path was laid out in 2019, when the heads of state and government decided unanimously to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. The designation of an interim target for 2030 represents another key element.

How do consultations in the European Parliament and the Environment Council work?

Both institutions — each on its own, in the first instance — amend the Commission proposal in accordance with their own ideas. The respective main bodies, the (Environment) Council and the EP plenary, then adopt the results, which provide the basis for inter-institutional negotiations. These negotiations are also known as "trilogue" in which the Commission takes part as well. The country presiding over the Council of the European Union — Germany at present — has the task of developing the position of the Council on the basis of the range of opinions and existing majorities. This is the stage we are currently at.

Which other provisions will be included in the European Climate Law?

The draft law also contains a proposal on what is known as climate mainstreaming, which would require all of the EU's future legislation and policies to comply with the 2050 target. Furthermore, all impact assessments would have to take target compatibility into account. The draft of the Climate Law contains other important provisions. These include the review of EU climate targets, also with a view to international developments (Paris Agreement and UNFCCC), the monitoring of progress made by the member states and at EU level regarding climate action, measures for climate change adaptation and the involvement of civil society by the European Commission. Additional proposals will be discussed during negotiations in the Council and the European Parliament such as the inclusion of a mechanism for setting a 2040 target (Council) and the establishment of a scientific expert body at EU level for monitoring progress (EP).

Where are the negotiations on the law currently taking place?

Consultations on the draft European Climate Law, which was tabled by the European Commission in March, are currently held at committee level and in the Council working parties at the (Environment) Council of the European Union. This is part of the "ordinary legislative procedure" at EU level. The European Parliament will have a vote on the law at the beginning of October.

When is the Environment Council going to work on the law at ministerial level?

The European Climate Law is intended to be dealt with at the Environment Council on 23 October 2020. We want to achieve a general approach in the Environment Council.

What does the German Council Presidency hope to achieve in the Environment Council with regard to the European Climate Law?

Our aim for our Council Presidency is to achieve a broad consensus in the Council.

Is the European Council going to work on the Climate Law and the 2030 climate target?

It is not yet clear whether the European Council is going to deal with these issues during its October and December meetings.

Who will take the final decision on the EU Climate Law in the Council?

The final formal decision of the member states on an increased 2030 target will be adopted in the EU Environment Council. This decision is scheduled for December at the latest. The European Council is expected to issue guidelines before that date.

What happens after the adoption of a decision in the Environment Council?

After the adoption of the decision, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have to enter into a trilogue, with the Commission attending and taking part as facilitator. The Presidency has only limited influence on the duration of trilogue negotiations. Against the backdrop of COVID-related restrictions, it is even more difficult to estimate how long the deliberations are going to take. It would, however, be desirable if the trilogue was concluded under Germany’s Council Presidency. We are working to move the negotiations forward as much as possible.

Are other EU Councils also going to work on the Climate Law?

Possibly. Other Councils, however, will not have to take an in-depth look at the whole Climate Law. The Council of Energy Ministers, for example, is going to focus on the increase of the 2030 target.

How does the EU intend to implement the 2030 climate target in practice?

The European Commission is going to present a review of current climate and energy legislation in the summer of 2021. The Commission has suggested different ways forward: expanding emissions trading, increasing the use of renewable energies more rapidly and improving energy efficiency. A key proposal by the European Commission concerns the expansion of emissions trading to the transport and buildings sectors. Furthermore, the hydrogen strategy and the farm to fork strategy are to provide an additional basis for climate neutrality in the transport and agricultural sectors. With the programme Next Generation EU, the EU also has an investment plan designed to facilitate this transition towards a climate neutral economy. It contains the following measures:

  • 30 percent of the Multiannual Financial Framework and the EU recovery programme Next Generation EU (NGEU) are allocated to finance climate action — this is the equivalent of EUR 547.2 billion.[MFR: EUR 1,074 billion, NGEU: EUR 750 billion]
  • 37 percent of the funding provided through the Recovery and Resilience F acility have to be spent on climate action;
  • 30 percent of the EUR 750 billion earmarked by the NextGenerationEU investment plan are to be provided through green bonds;
  • provision of finance to lighthouse initiatives, e.g. the use of green hydrogen, supporting building renovations and increasing the number of charging stations to promote e-mobility.