Europe proposes Climate Law with commitment to be 'climate neutral' by 2050

The EU wants to enshrine its political commitments to tackling climate change in law, but activists are unimpressed.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

Greta Thunberg meeting President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Wednesday.

Leon Neal / Getty

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed its new Climate Law, under which the EU would commit to making Europe the first "climate neutral" continent by 2050.

The draft bill will need to be discussed and voted on by the European Parliament and member states before it becomes EU law. If passed, it would enshrine the EU's existing climate goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century.

"The Climate Law is the legal translation of our political commitment, and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future," said President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in a statement. Executive VP for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans added that the law would serve as "a message to our international partners that this is the year to raise global ambition together, in the pursuit of our shared Paris Agreement goals."

As part of the proposal, the EU wants to set a September deadline for reviewing the impact of raising its current greenhouse gas reduction goal for 2030. This is a disappointment to climate activists, who had hoped the law would include an EU target set for 2030, with a clear plan laid out ahead of the COP26 climate summit due to take place in Glasgow in November.

Activist Greta Thurnberg, who addressed the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, published an open letter along with 33 other climate strikers, in which she said that by ignoring the CO2 budget, the EU's proposed law "equals surrender."

A new trajectory for reductions between 2030 and 2050 is also included in the proposals, with Brussels given new powers to review the consistency of measures every five years from 2023. Member states found not to be meeting their commitments would be issued recommendations by the EU and would be obliged to either take them into account or explain their failure to do so.

"The Climate Law will ensure we stay focused and disciplined, remain on the right track and are accountable for delivery," said Timmermans.

Watch this: From Tetris to the moon and back: Henk Rogers on sustainability

Global Climate Strike protesters rise up in Sydney

See all photos