European Council agreed: EU to become climate neutral by 2050
EU leaders have agreed on a commitment to make the European Union climate neutral by 2050. The agreement was reached at the meeting of the European Council in Brussels on 12 December. One member state stated that it could not, at this stage, commit to implementing the climate objective.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said: “The EU’s ambitious long-term climate objective has been one of the main priorities of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, and we have done everything in our power to reach agreement on it. Today we reached a decision on a joint commitment, but unfortunately one member state could not yet commit to implementing the decision. Our work will continue in this regard, and I remain confident that by next summer all member states will have committed to the full implementation of the climate target.”
Climate neutrality means capturing the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is emitted into it. The Paris Agreement on climate change obliges the EU and other parties to the Agreement to submit long-term climate strategies to the UN by 2020. The objective stated in the Paris Agreement is to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The parties to the agreement are committed to pursuing efforts to limit the increase in temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen, who is attending the UN climate conference in Madrid, said: “The EU is the first economic power to commit to climate neutrality. The target for 2050 sends a strong message about climate leadership to the Madrid climate conference. However, the long-term objective alone is not enough. When the EU increases its emissions reduction target for 2030 next year, the update must be in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Climate action urgently needed
As shown in the 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperatures are already 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels (1850–1900). If warming continues at the current rate, the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit will be exceeded by 2050. The IPCC report says that surpassing the limit will dramatically accelerate species extinction rates, make a growing proportion of the Earth’s land surface uninhabitable, and increase the risk of disruptions to water supply and food production.
The climate objective discussed by the European Council is based on a communication issued by the European Commission in 2018 entitled 'A Clean Planet for all – A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy'. This communication launched a debate on how the EU should prepare for the delivery of a long-term climate strategy to the UN. The mitigation of climate change has been one of the cross-cutting themes of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, and it has been consistently discussed in almost all Council formations.
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