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Climate ‘law of laws’ gets European Parliament’s green light

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of the hemicycle ahead of a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2021. Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Parliament on Thursday approved a landmark law to make the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions targets legally binding, paving the way for a policy overhaul to cut planet-warming pollution faster.

Negotiators from Parliament and the EU’s 27 member countries reached a deal in April on the climate law, which puts tougher emissions-cutting targets at the heart of EU policymaking.

The bill sets targets to reduce net EU emissions by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels, and eliminate net emissions by 2050.

“Today is a historic day,” said Swedish Social Democrat Jytte Guteland, Parliament’s lead lawmaker on the bill. “Unless we rapidly cut our emissions, the science is crystal clear. The future will be catastrophic.”

Parliament formally approved the law with 442 votes in favour, 203 against and 51 abstentions. Some Green lawmakers abstained, after seeking a more ambitious 60% emission cut by 2030. Lawmakers from groups including the right-wing Identity and Democracy rejected it.

“This is the law of laws, because it will discipline us in the years to come,” Frans Timmermans, head of EU climate policy, said.

The climate law will guide EU regulations in the coming decades.

First up is a sweeping package of policies, which the European Commission will propose on July 14, designed to cut emissions faster to meet the climate targets. It will include more ambitious renewable energy targets, EU carbon market reforms and tighter CO2 standards for new cars.

Most EU laws are designed to meet the bloc’s previous target to cut emissions 40% by 2030, and need updgrading to meet the new aims. EU emissions in 2019 were 24% lower than in 1990.

The new targets are designed to put the EU on a pathway that, if followed globally, would limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degree Celsius.

Scientists say that would avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. Already deadly heatwaves, flooding and strong storms are battering countries and temperatures are more than 1C above pre-industrial levels.

Representatives from the EU’s member countries will formally approve the law on Monday. Parliament and the EU will then sign the text, a formal step, before it becomes law.

The law also requires Brussels to create an independent body of scientific experts to advise on climate policies, and a greenhouse gas budget to define the total emissions the EU can produce from 2030-2050 and still meet its climate goals.

Climate ‘law of laws’ gets European Parliament’s green light

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