EU responses to climate change 

Climate change will affect everyone. Photo by Ezra Comeau-Jeffrey on Unsplash  

Fighting climate change is a priority for the European Parliament. Below you will find details of the solutions the EU and the Parliament are working on.

Limiting global warming: a matter of 2°C increase


Average global temperatures have risen significantly since the industrial revolution and the last decade (2011–2020) was the warmest decade on record. Of the 20 warmest years, 19 have occurred since 2000.

Data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service shows that 2020 was also the warmest year on record for Europe. The majority of evidence indicates that this is due to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) produced by human activity.

The average global temperature is today 0.95 to 1.20 °C higher than at the end of the 19th century. Scientists consider an increase of 2°C compared to pre-industrialised levels as a threshold with dangerous and catastrophic consequences for climate and the environment.

This is why the international community agrees that global warming needs to stay well below a 2°C increase.

Why is an EU response important?

The EU is affected by climate change

Climate change is already affecting Europe in various forms, depending on the region. It can lead to biodiversity loss, forest fires, decreasing crop yields and higher temperatures. It can also affect people's health.

The EU is a big emitter

According to the European Environment Agency, the EU was the world's third biggest greenhouse gases emitter after China and the US in 2015.

More facts in our infographics about climate change in Europe

The EU is a committed member of international climate negotiations

The EU is a key player in UN climate change talks and has signed the Paris agreement. All EU countries are also signatories, but they coordinate their positions and set common emission reduction goals at the EU level.

Under the Paris agreement, the EU committed in 2015 to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. In 2021, the target was changed to at least 55% reduction by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.

Check out our timeline of climate change negotiations

The EU efforts are paying off

In 2008, the EU set the target to cut emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. Emissions had dropped 24% by 2019 and to 31% by 2020, due partly to the Covid-10 pandemic. New targets were set in 2021.

Check out our infographic on the EU progress towards its 2020 climate goals

The European Green Deal: achieving zero net emissions by 2050

In 2021, the EU made climate neutrality, the goal of zero net emissions by 2050, legally binding in the EU. It set an interim target of 55% emission reduction by 2030.

This goal of zero net emissions is enshrined in the climate law. The European Green deal is the roadmap for the EU to become , climate-neutral by 2050.

The concrete legislation that will allow Europe to reach the Green Deal targets is laid down in the Fit for 55 package that the Commission presented in July 2021. It will include the revision of existing legislation on emissions reduction and energy, which are explained further below.

The EU is also working on achieving a circular economy by 2050, creating a sustainable food system and protecting biodiversity and pollinators.

In order to finance the Green Deal, the European Commission presented in January 2020 the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, which aims to attract at least €1 trillion of public and private investment over the next decade.

Under the investment plan, the Just Transition Fundis designed to support regions and communities that are most affected by a green transition, for instance regions that are heavily dependent on coal.

Read more about the Green Deal

Infographic on greenhouse gas emissions  

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions

The EU has put in place different types of mechanisms depending on the sector.

Power stations and industry

To cut emissions from power stations and industry, the EU has put into place the first major carbon market. With the Emissions Trading System (ETS), companies have to buy permits to emit CO2, so the less they pollute, the less they pay. This system covers 40% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Parliament is currently considering a revision of the scheme to align it with the higher emission reduction targets of the Green Deal.

Construction and agriculture

For other sectors such as construction or agriculture, reductions will be achieved through agreed national emissions targets, which are calculated, based on countries' gross domestic product per capita. As part of the Fit for 55 package, MEPs backed raising the emission reduction target of these sectors from 29% to 40% by 2030.


Regarding road transport, in June 2022, the European Parliament backed a proposal to reach zero emissions from new cars and vans in the EU by 2035.

So far there have been no EU requirements for ships to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Maritime transport is set to be included in the reformed EU ETS, as proposed in the Fit for 55 package.

In June 2022, Parliament voted in favour of a revision of the ETS for aviation, including all flights departing from the European Economic Area in the scheme.

Deforestation and land use

The EU also wants to use the CO2 absorption power of forests to fight climate change. In June 2022, MEPs voted in favour of an update of the rules governing deforestation and change of land use (LULUCF). The aim is to enhance EU’s carbon sinks to achieve even bigger emission reduction than the current 55% target by 2030.

Import from countries with lower climate ambitions

In July 2021, the European Commission proposed a carbon border adjustment mechanism to encourage companies in and outside the EU to decarbonise, by placing a carbon price on the imports of certain goods if they come from less climate ambitious countries. It is intended to avoid carbon leakage, which happens when industries move production to countries with less strict greenhouse gas emissions rules.

Find out more details about
EU measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Addressing the energy challenge

The EU also fights climate change with a clean energy policy adopted by the Parliament in 2018. The focus is on increasing the share of renewable energy consumed to 32% by 2030 and creating the possibility for people to produce their own green energy.

In addition, the EU wants to improve energy efficiency 32.5% by 2030 and adopted legislation on buildings and household appliances.

The targets for both renewable energy share and energy efficiency will be revised up in the context of the Green Deal.

Discover more about
EU measures to promote clean energy