For the first time, the European Union will enshrine in law the legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050. Today at the Environment Council in Brussels, chaired by German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, the EU environment ministers agreed on a joint position on the European Climate Law, which sets the climate neutrality goal into legislation and lays down a higher climate target for 2030. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are to be reduced by at least 55 percent compared to 1990 levels. So far, a reduction of 25 percent has been achieved; the previous goal had been to reach at least 40 percent by 2030. It was also decided that the member states will submit the new 2030 target as the EU NDC to the United Nations this year, as envisaged in the Paris Agreement.

German Environment Minister Schulze commented:

This agreement sends an important message internationally that the European Union is making a commitment to climate action that is irreversible and binding. We Europeans are proving that we take the Paris Agreement seriously. Our new EU target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 sets an example internationally which establishes a credible and prudent path to climate neutrality in 2050. For the coming decade, this means doubling our pace on climate action. All EU member states will have to step up their efforts. Germany, too, will have to contribute more to climate action than the 55 percent greenhouse gas reduction previously agreed. We will now have to take more resolute climate action measures in all areas: in the energy transition, in transport and buildings as well as in all industrial processes.

The European Climate Law has not yet set out the measures for achieving the targets or the contributions of the member states. These will be determined once the European Commission presents its proposals for implementation instruments in summer 2021.

Furthermore, the European Climate Law envisages regular reviews that are closely aligned with the Paris Agreement. Accordingly, every five years the European Commission will review whether EU and member state measures aimed at climate neutrality are consistent with the intended trajectory to achieve this goal. Similar to the Paris Agreement, the first review will take place in 2023.

The European Council will swiftly negotiate the European Climate Law further in the trilogue with the European Parliament and the European Commission. The talks will then be finalised as planned under the Portuguese Council Presidency.