Mid-century zero emissions strategy for the EU

In “Resilient Energy Union with a climate change policy”

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The Paris Agreement on climate change, which entered into force in November 2016, commits Parties to aim at peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, followed by rapid reductions 'so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.' The decision 1/CP.21 on the adoption of the Paris Agreement invites parties to communicate mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies to the UNFCCC secretariat by 2020.

In this context, the European Parliament resolution of 4 October 2017 on the COP 23 UN Climate Change Conference, held in Bonn, Germany, under Fijian presidency in November 2017, urges the European Commission 'to prepare by COP24 [2018] a mid-century zero emissions strategy for the EU, providing a cost-efficient pathway towards reaching the net zero emissions goal adopted in the Paris Agreement with a view to keeping the global average temperature rise well below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1,5 °C.' It proposes that the process of preparing such a strategy 'should be initiated as early as possible in order to enable a comprehensive debate, in which the European Parliament should play a crucial role, in partnership with representatives of national, regional and local authorities, as well as civil society and the business sector'. It calls on the Commission and the Council to encourage other parties to do the same, as action at EU level alone will not be sufficient. Such a mid-century zero-emissions strategy would supersede the 2011 Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050, which aims at an 80% reduction of EU domestic emissions by 2050.

In the plenary debate on COP 23 UN Climate Change Conference on 3 October 2017, Commissioner Arias Cañete remarked that the Commission is dependent on further international developments in order to have the necessary science and analytical basis in place for developing long-term strategies. This includes a scientific report on the 2°C and 1.5°C pathways by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in the second half of 2018, as well as the UNFCCC Facilitative Dialogue at the end of 2018, which will show how countries are implementing the Paris Agreement and what more is needed. The Commission would prepare an in-depth analysis of the economic and social transformations needed to facilitate the preparation of these strategies, in order to feed the political debate in the European Parliament and the Council and with stakeholders.

On 22 March 2018, the European Council asked the Commission to present a proposal for a strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction in accordance with the Paris Agreement by the first quarter of 2019.

In preparation for the development the strategy, the Commission organised a stakeholder event on 'The EU’s vision for a modern, clean and competitive economy' in Brussels on 10-11 July 2018 and held a public consultation which from 17 July to 9 October 2018.In its letter of intent of 12 September 2018, the Commission committed to deliver the strategy ahead of the December 2018 climate change conference (COP24) in Katowice. 

In its resolution of 25 October 2018 on the COP 24 Climate Change Conference in Katowice, the European Parliament reiterated the call for an ambitious and cost-efficient mid-century zero emissions strategy.

On 28 November 2018, the Commission adopted the strategic long-term vision entitled 'a clean planet for all'. It confirms Europe's commitment to lead in global climate action and presents cost-effective pathways towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a socially-fair transition. It presents eight scenarios based on no-regret policies, identifies seven main strategic building blocks and outlines a European enabling framework for the long term transition, addressing investment and finance; research, innovation and deployment; economic and social impacts; the EU's global role and the role of citizens and local authorities.

The European Council, in its meeting of 13-14 December 2018, invited the Council to work on the elements outlined in the Commission's Communication. The Competitiveness Council held a debate on the strategy on 18 February 2019. The Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council discussed the strategy on 04 March 2019, the Environment Council on 5 March 2019 and the Agriculture Council on 14 May 2019.

In the European Parliament, the ITRE and the ENVI Committee adopted their reports on the strategy on 19 and 20 February 2019, respectively. The Parliament held a plenary debate on the strategy on 13 March 2019 and adopted a resolution on 14 March 2019. It welcomes the Commission's strategy, calls for an overarching approach towards achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and advocates a 55 % reduction of EU emissions by 2030.

Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen's mission letter to the Vice-President in charge of the European Green Deal announces a new European Climate Law that would set an EU climate-neutrality target for 2050, to be presented within the first 100 days of the new Commission's mandate. The December 2019 Commission communication on the European Green Deal commits to presenting the European Climate Law by March 2020.

The December 2019 European Council endorsed the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050, while noting the need to take into account different national circumstances in terms of starting points.


Visit the European Parliament homepage on climate change.

As of 20/11/2019.