Will MEPs turn ‘climate emergency’ words into a climate law that works?

Posted on September, 09 2020

The biggest issue at stake is the 2030 emissions target.
What’s happening?
The European Parliament’s environment committee is voting on the EU climate law on 10 September. This will be followed by a plenary vote, likely in October. It is the Parliament’s chance to turn the proposed legislation into a law fit for tackling the climate emergency. 

Why does it matter?
The European Commission published its proposal for an EU climate law - including a net zero emissions target for 2050 - in March. The Commission also said at that point that it would assess the impact of increasing the 2030 climate target from 40% emissions reductions to 50% and towards 55% - the resulting study is expected this month. However, only a 65% emissions reductions target for 2030 is in line with science. On 10 September, MEPs must show they understand what’s at stake, and get behind the millions of citizens who want to see greater climate action at the heart of a green economic recovery, by supporting a 65% target for 2030 in the climate law. 

Imke Lübbeke, head of climate and energy at WWF European Policy Office said:
“From the Amazon to the Arctic, the world is ablaze with wildfires triggered by our overheating climate. Europe has a duty and an opportunity to lead the way on climate action just like it did on industrialising. MEPs can send an important signal when they vote on our upcoming climate law, which sets a path to climate neutrality. To do enough in the short term, we need a 65% emissions target for 2030 and a target for increasing carbon dioxide removal by restoring natural ecosystems. Anything less would be shirking our responsibility.”

Alex Mason, senior policy officer at WWF European Policy Office said:
“Climate policy must be underpinned by science to make it credible and legitimate. An independent scientific body, set up by the climate law, would help make EU policies consistent with climate goals, which is very far from the case at present. Starting with the upcoming committee vote, MEPs have a great chance to turn the fine words of the ‘climate emergency’ declaration into a robust law that makes a real difference to EU climate action.”

What is WWF calling for in the EU climate law?
  • An emissions reduction target for 2030 of at least 65%, excluding carbon dioxide removal by sinks or any international offsetting.
  • Any EU policies that aren’t consistent with the EU’s climate objectives to be scrapped or changed by 2021.
  • An independent expert EU climate body to advise on EU climate policies and plans and their consistency with EU climate goals.
  • An EU roadmap that sets out the path to  climate neutrality by 2040. 
  • A ban on all fossil fuel subsidies, advertising and sponsorship. 
What happens now?
The European Parliament’s plenary vote will take place in early (5-9) or mid (19-23) October. Member States will reach agreement (‘general approach’) on their position possibly in October or December. At the same time, the European Commission is due to publish its impact assessment, known as the ‘2030 climate target plan’ and proposed target increase in the next few weeks. 

Who supports what, and what are the bones of contention?

European Parliament
The biggest issue at stake in the ENVI committee vote is the 2030 emissions target. The Swedish S&D Rapporteur Jytte GUTELAND has proposed setting this at 65% - something the Greens also support and GUE MEPs had been pushing for 70%. Dragging their feet as usual are the EPP, who are reluctant to support even 55% and have sought to water down many of the other progressive additions to the law that the Rapporteur and the Greens and GUE have proposed. 

Key to watch will be where the Renew members jump. So far they’ve been trying to keep EPP on board and so haven’t been pushing for the 65% target the science says is necessary. It’s possible that Renew might be willing to support the slightly lower figure of 60% - but the vote will be extremely tight.

Whatever is agreed by the ENVI committee will then go to the Plenary sometime in October. If there hasn’t been consensus in the committee stage then we can expect some further tight votes on the key issues there. After that the Parliament will be ready to move into the ‘trilogue’ stage, where a compromise deal is hammered out with the Council (see below). 

EU Member States
Where the Council will end up on this dossier is far from clear. So far the Member States have only really focused on the 2030 target question, on which they remain divided (see table below). And they’ve shown none of the interest in beefing up the limited Commission proposal in the way that we’ve seen in the Parliament. It remains to be seen whether the German Presidency will be able to corral them behind a ‘general approach’ by the time of the Environment Council in October. See table summarising their positions as of 8 September 2020.


Imke Lübbeke
Head of Climate and Energy

Alex Mason
Senior Policy Officer
+ 32 494 762 763

Sarah Azau (Climate)
Media manager
+32 473 573 137
A sign from the 2019 climate march in New York City.
© WWF-US / Keith Arnold
EU Member States' positions on the EU 2030 climate target (September 2020)
© WWF EPO / Romain Laugier