EU and the Paris agreement: towards climate neutrality 

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Ahead of the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, the EU has made its long term climate goals, including the climate neutrality by 2050 legally binding.

On 28 November 2019, MEPs adopted a resolution calling for the EU to set climate neutrality by 2050 as its long-term climate goal under the Paris agreement and to increase the emission reduction target to 55% by 2030. In a separate resolution, members declared a climate emergency in Europe.  In December 2019, the European Commission presented the roadmap for a climate-neutral Europe - the Green Deal

The Paris agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C in order to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change. It has been signed by 194 countries as well as the European Union. All EU countries are signatories on their own, but they coordinate their positions together and set common emission reduction goals at the EU level.

National emission reduction goals

In order to reach the goal of the Paris agreement, countries are required to set goals for their climate efforts every five years, increasing their level of ambition over time. These goals are known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). 

The EU’s climate goals

The EU was the first major economy to submit its emissions reduction goal under the Paris agreement, promising to reduce its CO2 emissions 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. However, there is increasing pressure to set a more ambitious target.

In June 2021, the Parliament adopted the EU Climat Law, making the political commitment of climate neutrality by 2050 under the Green Deal into a binding obligation, and giving Europeans and businesses the legal certainty and predictability they need to plan for this transition.

According to an IPCC report on global warming from 2018, global emissions should reach net zero by 2050 if the 1.5 °C target is to be met. Global youth protests and school strikes for climate, started by the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, and a special Eurobarometer survey from 2019 show that Europeans are willing to pursue stricter climate goals.

According to a special Eurobarometer survey in spring 2021, 34% of EU citizens indicated that action against climate change should be a priority for the European Parliament.

The EU is expected to promote the climate law as an ambitious accomplishment during the COP26, in Glasgow, in November 2021.

Key terms 
  • UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change): entered into force in 1994 and under which Paris Agreement and Kyoto protocol have been agreed 
  • COP (Conference of the parties to the UNFCCC): participants come together every year to discuss how to achieve the convention’s targets 
  • NDC (nationally determined contribution): the climate change mitigation goal each signatory of Paris agreement is required to set every five years