As of 2016, the European Parliament’s irreducible carbon emissions can be fully offset, making it the first EU institution to become 100% carbon-neutral, Parliament’s Bureau (President, Vice-Presidents and Quaestors), decided some weeks ahead of COP 21 in Paris. At the same time, Parliament is continuing to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and make better use of energy, water and paper, in line with its environmental policy to first and foremost prevent or limit emissions.

Commenting on the Bureau decision, Vice-President Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT), who is responsible for the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), said:

"With this step towards 100% carbon neutrality the European Parliament will play its part in limiting the impacts of climate change. Some weeks ahead of COP21 in Paris this is a great signal from inside the European Institutions showing that we are willing to live up to our goals. The EU will have to seriously raise its ambition if it is to play a positive role in making COP21 a success. In this way, Parliament is setting a good example in promoting best practice. But we will do more: in order to progress towards reaching our environmental targets Parliament will further improve the implementation of its environmental practices throughout the Parliament in key areas, such as water, paper and electricity consumption, waste recycling and awareness-raising.”

Parliament’s first carbon-offsetting scheme, in force since September 2011, only included emissions from official staff travel and official cars as well as from energy use and technical installations in Parliament's buildings. The new scheme encompasses all Parliaments' irreducible carbon emissions, including those from MEPs’ flights between their countries of origin and Brussels and Strasbourg. The 100% offsetting goal is funded up to EUR 250,000.

Offsetting applies only in cases where carbon emissions are unavoidable or cannot be further reduced. CO2 offsetting entails buying carbon offsets to compensate for the buyer’s own CO2 emissions. Such offsets are typically achieved by providing financial support for renewable energy or efficient energy projects, which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a global context.

Next to the 100% offsetting goal, Parliament has also decided on eligible offsetting projects. Projects in the African, Caribbean and Pacific states should be considered first. If no projects are available in these countries, projects in countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership/Union for the Mediterranean (EuroMed/UfM) should be considered next, with projects in EU accession candidate countries or EU member states also being eligible. For offsetting projects in developing countries, the globally-recognized 'Gold Standard' of quality, originally developed by the WWF and other international NGOs as a best practice standard, should be used. All projects proposed should continue to be registered under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC) to ensure their legitimacy.

The European Parliament signed its first environmental policy pledge in 2004 and joined the voluntary EMAS scheme in 2007. One of its key EMAS aims is to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020 compared to 2006. To date Parliament has already achieved a reduction of 27.2 %. In other EMAS key pledges Parliament has decreased its electricity consumption by 9.22% since 2012 and its gas and heating-oil consumption by 35.25%, while increasing its waste-recycling capacity to 68.9%.

In a resolution adopted on the 14th of October ahead of the Paris climate change conference, Parliament called on the EU and its member states to propose a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and scale up climate finance commitments at the COP21 UN climate talks in Paris (Press release).

A European Parliament delegation of 15 MEPs will attend the climate conference from 7 to 12 December.