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2050 carbon neutral target  to become legally binding
President Ursula von der Leyen Pic: RollingNews.ie

09 Mar 2020 / Environment Print

2050 carbon neutral target to become legally binding

The European Commission (EC) is proposing to enshrine in legislation the EU's political commitment to be climate neutral by 2050, and plans to launch a public consultation on the future European Climate Pact.

The EU's ambition is to become the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050. The European Climate Law “sets the 2050 target and the direction of travel for all EU policy”.

President Ursula von der Leyen described the Climate Law as “the legal translation of our political commitment, and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future. It is the heart of the European Green Deal”.


The president said that the plan offers predictability and transparency for European industry and investors, and guarantees that the transition will be gradual and fair.

Executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, added: “We are turning words into action today, to show our European citizens that we are serious about reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“The European Climate Law is also a message to our international partners that this is the year to raise global ambition together, in the pursuit of our shared Paris Agreement goals.

“The Climate Law will ensure we stay focused and disciplined, remain on the right track, and are accountable for delivery.”

With the European Climate Law, the EC proposes a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


EU institutions and EU Member States will be collectively bound to take the necessary measures at EU and national level to meet the target.

The measures will keep track of progress and adjust actions accordingly, based on member states' National Energy and Climate Plans, regular reports by the European Environment Agency, and the latest scientific evidence on climate change.

Progress will be reviewed every five years, in line with the global stock-taking exercise under the Paris Agreement.


The Climate Law also addresses the pathway to get to the 2050 target:

  • It proposes a new 2030 EU target for greenhouse gas emission reductions. The legislation will be amended once the impact assessment is completed.
  • By June 2021, the EC will review, and where necessary propose to revise, all relevant policy instruments to achieve the additional emission reductions for 2030.
  • The commission proposes the setting of a 2030-’50 EU-wide trajectory for greenhouse-gas-emission reductions, to measure progress and give predictability to public authorities, businesses and citizens.
  • By September 2023, and every five years thereafter, the commission will assess the consistency of EU and national measures with the climate-neutrality objective, and the 2030-’50 trajectory.

The EC will be empowered to issue recommendations to member states whose actions are inconsistent with the climate-neutrality objective, and they will be obliged to take due account of these recommendations, or to explain their reasoning if they fail to do so.

The EC can also review the adequacy of the trajectory and the union-wide measures.

Member states will also be required to develop and implement adaptation strategies to strengthen resilience, and reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change.


The public consultation is designed to give citizens and stakeholders a voice and role in designing new climate actions, sharing information, launching grassroots activities, and showcasing solutions.

It will run for 12 weeks and inputs will shape the Climate Pact, which will be launched before the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow in November 2020 (COP26).

2021 will also be designated the European Year of Rail, to highlight the benefits for the climate of increasing passenger and freight-use of the rail network.


The commission first set out its vision for a climate-neutral EU by 2050 in November 2018, in line with the Paris Agreement objective to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C.

The European Parliament endorsed the EU objective of achieving net zero greenhouse gases on 14 March 2019.

On 12 December 2019, the European Council endorsed the objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050.

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