The European Parliament on Thursday officially endorsed the Climate Law (also known as the European Green Deal), with member states voting 442-203 to transform the legislation’s political commitment into a legal one.
The law “gives European citizens and businesses the legal certainty and predictability they need to plan for the transition to climate neutrality,” according to a press release. “This is the law of laws, because it will discipline us in the years to come,” said Frans Timmermans, head of EU Climate Policy.
The European Council first launched the law in December 2019 with the goal of a carbon-neutral Europe by 2050—a goal in line with the Paris Agreement. To reach that goal, environmental ministers agreed on a provisional proposal for an increased greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target: from 40 percent to at least 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
By April 2021, negotiators also added the creation of the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change to the law and set preliminary GHG targets for 2040. The Advisory Board, which is a separate, independent panel of experts, will advise on climate policies and budget the total allowable EU GHG emissions for 2030-2050, while still meeting climate targets.
The Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety initially approved the law in a 52-24 vote in May.
In addition to avoiding new GHG emissions, the law “recognizes that already emitted GHG will need to be removed to compensate for GHG emitted from sectors where decarbonization is most challenging.” As such, the law seeks to regulate GHG emissions and removals from general land use and forestry, and will increase overall carbon sink capacity. The law also regulates the decarbonization of the EU energy sector, while bolstering the emissions trading system, emission limits for vehicles, and climate resiliency strategies.