Discussions on climate change and the transition to a climate-neutral European Union

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Publication Date 2019
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Reports, analyses and information on the discussions held by and between Member States level on addressing climate change and transitioning to a climate-neutral European Union (EU).

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The European Commission adopted in November 2018 a Communication on a climate-neutral economy, which aims at launching a debate for a long-term strategy that is able to confirm the European Union's commitment to lead in global climate action and to present a vision that can lead to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a socially-fair transition in a cost-efficient manner. In March 2019, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution arguing for a more ambitious emission reduction target for 2030 in order to reach the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Facing an increasing level of pressure by public opinion across Europe for climate change to become a key political issue - such as youth action on climate change and the electoral growth of green parties - the European Union and its Member States engaged in discussions to determine a long-term strategy which can ensure a transition towards a climate neutrality in the European Union (EU).

On 9 May 2019, a number of Member States published a non-position setting out their position on climate change. On 20 June, the European Council failed to agree on the goal of a climate-neutral EU by 2050 due to the opposition of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia (which dropped its opposition on 3 October). National leaders agreed that a climate-neutral EU should:

  • take into account specificities of the EU countries;
  • preserve the competitiveness of European industry;
  • use just and socially balanced measures;
  • respect member states' right to decide on own energy mix;
  • build on the measures already in place to achieve 2030 reduction target.

An update on the EU-wide and international discussions relating to these matters was undertaken by the Council of the European Union on 26 June. Media sources reported in September 2019 that Member States were assessing the introduction energy taxes to help meeting the climate targets set by the European Union. In late 2019, the discussions around these matters were held alongside the development of the European Green Deal, put forward as one of the main priorities of the new European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen. This roadmap - which also includes a framework for climate neutrality - was formally presented on 11 December.

Climate neutrality was one of the matters discussed by national leaders at the European Council summit on 12 December. The objective of making the EU climate-neutral by 2050 was endorsed by all Member States except for Poland. For that reason, the issue was scheduled to be revisited in June 2020. The Council of the European Union adopted on 5 March 2020 the EU's long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy on behalf of the EU and its member states, which reaffirms the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050. This Strategy was to be forward to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as required by the Paris Agreement.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
EurActiv: Climate strategy 2050 https://www.euractiv.com/sections/climate-strategy-2050/
The Guardian, 12/06/2019: What will it take for the UK to reach net zero emissions? https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/12/what-will-it-take-for-the-uk-to-reach-net-zero-emissions
BBC News, 17/06/2019: EU leaders face pressure to deliver on climate change https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48621860
EurActiv, 19/06/2019: Europe’s youth want climate action. Elected leaders should give it to them https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/opinion/europes-youth-want-climate-action-elected-leaders-should-give-it-to-them/
Euro|topics, June 2019: Climate goals now just a footnote in EU https://www.eurotopics.net/en/222194/
Politico, 25/06/2019: Behind 4 countries’ resistance to an EU climate neutral goal https://www.politico.eu/article/whats-behind-the-resistance-of-four-countries-to-an-eu-climate-neutral-goal-of-2050/
EurActiv, 28/08/2019: An EU agenda for climate security https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/opinion/an-eu-agenda-for-climate-security/
Politico, 21/09/2019: The ‘Mutti’ of all climate promises https://www.politico.eu/article/merkel-climate-change-promises-under-deliver/
EurActiv, 23/09/2019: Cities and regions will be pivotal in reaching climate neutrality by 2050 https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/opinion/cities-and-regions-will-be-pivotal-in-reaching-climate-neutrality-by-2050/
Politico, 13/12/2019: Charles Michel goes multispeed to get Europe ahead on climate https://www.politico.eu/article/charles-michel-goes-multi-speed-to-get-europe-ahead-on-climate/

BBC News, 12/06/2019: Climate change: Should the UK's 2050 target be sooner? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-48616224
EurActiv, 12/06/2019: UK PM agrees legally binding net-zero emissions target for 2050 https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/uk-prime-minister-agrees-legally-binding-net-zero-emissions-target-for-2050/
Politico, 16/06/2019: Germany joins push for EU-wide 2050 net zero emissions goal https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-joins-push-for-eu-wide-net-zero-emissions-goal/
EurActiv, 17/06/2019: 18 EU countries now support 2050 carbon neutrality goal https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/18-eu-countries-sign-up-to-2050-carbon-neutrality-goal/
Reuters, 17/06/2019: More EU leaders sign up to carbon net-zero goal by 2050 ahead of summit https://uk.reuters.com/article/dUKKCN1TI1Y5
Irish Times, 18/06/2019: Ireland to support EU carbon-neutral objective for 2050 https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/ireland-to-support-eu-carbon-neutral-objective-for-2050-1.3929731
EurActiv, 18/06/2019: Hungary backs 2050 climate neutrality goal, bringing EU total to 22 https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/hungary-says-no-climate-neutrality-without-nuclear-but-backs-eu-target/
The Guardian, 20/06/2019: Central European countries block EU moves towards 2050 zero carbon goal https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/20/eu-leaders-to-spar-over-zero-carbon-pledge-for-2050
The New York Times, 20/06/2019: E.U. Leaders Fail to Strengthen Climate Target https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/climate/europe-carbon-neutral.html
EurActiv, 20/06/2019: EU climate deal falls at summit, four countries wield the axe https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/eu-climate-deal-falls-at-summit-four-countries-wield-the-axe/
EurActiv, 20/06/2019: EU leaders to back carbon neutrality ‘by 2050’, come up short on final deal https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/eu-leaders-to-back-carbon-neutrality-by-2050-come-up-short-on-final-deal/
Bloomberg, 20/06/2019: Poland Blocks Merkel’s Push to End EU Carbon Emissions by 2050 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-20/poland-blocks-german-push-to-end-eu-carbon-emissions-by-2050
EUObserver, 20/06/2019: Four states block EU 2050 carbon neutral target https://euobserver.com/environment/145227
The Independent, 21/06/2019: Eastern European states block bid for EU climate change 2050 decarbonisation target https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/climate-change-2050-eu-eastern-europe-carbon-neutral-summit-countries-a8968141.html
Deutsche Welle, 21/06/2019: Blocked EU fails on climate pledge, despite increasing public pressure https://p.dw.com/p/3Kp0g
Radio Prague, 21/06/2019: EU Summit: Czechia among eastern states to derail 2050 climate target https://www.radio.cz/en/section/news/eu-summit-czechia-among-eastern-states-to-derail-2050-climate-target
Climate Home News, 21/06/2019: EU climate deal fails amid four-nation revolt https://www.climatechangenews.com/2019/06/21/eu-climate-deal-fails-amid-four-nation-revolt/
EurActiv, 25/06/2019: EU countries urged to see ‘opportunity in climate change’ https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/eu-countries-urged-to-see-opportunity-in-climate-change/
EurActiv, 28/06/2019: EU takes stock after climate deal disappointment https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/eu-takes-stock-after-climate-deal-disappointment/
Bloomberg, 11/09/2019: Europe’s Green Deal Seeks to Anchor Carbon Neutrality Into Law https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-11/europe-s-green-deal-seeks-to-anchor-carbon-neutrality-into-law
Reuters, 13/09/2019: EU considers energy taxes to counter climate change https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKCN1VY0EL
The Irish Times, 13/09/2019: Finland reels EU finance ministers into climate change debate https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/finland-reels-eu-finance-ministers-into-climate-change-debate-1.4016343
Politico, 13/09/2019: EU airline tax could help fight climate change, says German finance minister https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-airline-tax-could-help-fight-climate-change-says-german-finance-minister/
Deutsche Welle, 14/09/2019: EU plans energy tax to combat climate change https://p.dw.com/p/3Pa9Q
EurActiv, 20/09/2019: Investors demand binding EU measures to shield from climate risks https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/investors-demand-binding-eu-measures-to-shield-from-climate-risks/
EurActiv, 20/09/2019: Germany expects tough EU talks on energy taxes to counter climate change https://www.euractiv.com/section/emissions-trading-scheme/news/germany-expects-tough-eu-talks-on-energy-taxes-to-counter-climate-change/
Reuters, 25/09/2019: Poland plans new coal mines despite EU's call for carbon neutrality https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN1WA1EG
EurActiv, 03/10/2019: Estonia joins EU’s climate-neutral club https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/estonia-joins-eus-climate-neutral-club/
ERR News, 03/10/2019: Government endorses 2050 as target year for climate neutrality https://news.err.ee/987949/government-endorses-2050-as-target-year-for-climate-neutrality
EurActiv, 03/10/2019: Poland stokes dispute over net-zero emissions price and meaning https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-strategy-2050/news/poland-stokes-dispute-over-net-zero-emissions-price-and-meaning/
Reuters, 29/11/2019: Europe to consider law on climate neutrality by March https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN1Y31BL
EurActiv, 04/12/2019: EU leaders to push for climate neutrality at next week’s summit, draft shows https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/eu-leaders-to-push-for-climate-neutrality-at-next-weeks-summit-draft-shows/
The Guardian, 11/12/2019: EU aims to stir global action with pledge on climate crisis https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/11/eu-aims-to-stir-global-action-with-pledge-on-climate-crisis
EUObserver, 11/12/2019: Leaders to battle on climate target and money at summit https://euobserver.com/political/146896
BBC News, 12/12/2019: EU leaders to consider climate neutrality pledge https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-50744784
The Guardian, 12/12/2019: EU leaders meet to try to agree on carbon neutrality by 2050 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/12/eu-leaders-meet-again-to-try-to-agree-carbon-neutrality-by-2050
EurActiv, 12/12/2019: EU leaders offer money to reluctant east to push 2050 climate neutrality https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/eu-leaders-offer-money-to-reluctant-east-to-push-2050-climate-neutrality/
Forbes, 12/12/2019: Europe’s Green Deal Plan To Become The World’s First Climate-Neutral Continent By 2050 https://www.forbes.com/sites/anagarciavaldivia/2019/12/12/europes-green-deal-plan-to-become-the-worlds-first-climate-neutral-continent-by-2050/#429ebbd9476f
Reuters, 12/12/2019: Easterners threaten to wreck EU 2050 climate neutrality push https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN1YG01S
Reuters, 12/12/2019: EU leaves Poland out of 2050 climate deal after standoff https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN1YG01S
Hungary Today, 13/12/2019: Orbán: ‘Poor’ EU Countries Mustn’t Be Made to Bear Costs of Climate Action https://hungarytoday.hu/orban-eu-summit-climate-change/
EurActiv, 13/12/2019: EU leaders claim victory on 2050 climate goal, despite Polish snub https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/poland-snubs-climate-neutrality-deal-but-eu-leaders-claim-victory/
BBC News, 13/12/2019: EU carbon neutrality: Leaders agree 2050 target without Poland https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-50778001
Climate Home, 13/12/2019: EU agrees ‘climate neutral’ target for 2050, but Poland stands alone https://www.climatechangenews.com/2019/12/13/eu-sets-climate-neutral-target-2050-poland-stands-alone/
Deutsche Welle, 13/12/2019: EU leaders agree to 2050 carbon neutrality deal without Poland https://p.dw.com/p/3Uiu3

European Commission: 2050 long-term strategy https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/strategies/2050_en
European Parliament: Legislative Observatory: Procedure File for Resolution on climate change – a European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy in accordance with the Paris Agreement https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?lang=en&reference=2019/2582(RSP)
European Council: European Council conclusions on the MFF, climate change, disinformation and hybrid threats, external relations, enlargement and the European Semester, 20 June 2019 https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019/06/20/european-council-conclusions-20-june-2019/
European Parliament: Headlines, 03/10/2019: What is carbon neutrality and how can it be achieved by 2050? https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20190926STO62270/
European Commission: News, 13/12/2019: Turning challenge into opportunity on the course to becoming the first climate-neutral continent https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ac_19_6778
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 05/03/2020: Climate change: Council adopts EU long-term strategy for submission to the UNFCCC https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/03/05/climate-change-council-adopts-eu-long-term-strategy-for-submission-to-the-unfccc/
General Secretariat of the Council: Long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy of the European Union and its Member States ‒ Submission to the UNFCCC on behalf of the European Union and its Member States (5 March 2020) https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6612-2020-INIT/en/pdf

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