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Explainer: The European Climate Law and Climate Pact

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Why do we need a European Climate Law?

The atmosphere is warming, with serious consequences already now for our environment and societies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial times and limit the negative impacts of climate change, the world needs to rapidly cut its emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases (GHG) to achieve net-zero emissions of CO2 by 2050 and all other greenhouse gases somewhat later in the century.

The EU has already put in place some of the toughest and most ambitious climate legislation in the world and started to modernise and transform its economy in line with its climate goals. Between 1990 and 2018, it reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 23%, while the economy grew by 61%. The EU’s comprehensive climate and energy framework for 2030 will bring about further emission reductions across the economy.

However, current policies are expected to only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, meaning that much more remains to be done. In light of the scientific evidence, the increasingly obvious and severe negative effects of climate change, and citizens’ demands for more action, additional measures needs to be taken urgently. Against this background, the European Climate Law sets the ambitious target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 2050 and a framework for achieving this climate-neutrality objective.

What are the key elements of the Commission’s proposal?

The European Climate Law aims to complement the existing EU policy framework by setting the long-term direction of travel for EU climate policies, providing predictability for investors and businesses on the EU’s commitment, and ensuring transparency and accountability.

The Law sets in legislation the EU’s objective to become climate-neutral by 2050, by cutting emissions and increasing the removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to reach net-zero emissions.

The Law also aims to enhance efforts on adaptation to climate change. In spite of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Europe will continue to face the negative effects of climate change. The upcoming EU Adaptation Strategy and Member States’ adaptation strategies and plans will be essential to address these challenges.

What does the Climate Law mean for existing policies and the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030?

The proposal tasks the Commission to review existing policies and legislation in view of their consistency with the climate-neutrality objective and the trajectory identified.

As part of a two-step approach, the Commission will first assess and make proposals for increasing the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030 to ensure its consistency with the 2050 objective. By September 2020, the Commission will present an impact assessed plan to increase the 2030 target to at least 50% and towards 55% compared to 1990 levels in a responsible way, and will propose to amend the climate law accordingly.

To achieve the revised, more ambitious 2030 target, by June 2021 the Commission will then propose reviews of the:

  • European Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) Directive;
  • Effort Sharing Regulation;
  • Land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) Regulation;
  • Energy Efficiency Directive;
  • Renewable Energy Directive;
  • CO2 emissions performance standards for cars and vans;

Several other initiatives in preparation under the European Green Deal will also help achieve the objectives of the Climate Law, including making a proposal for a “carbon border adjustment mechanism” for selected sectors, launching a new EU Adaptation Strategy and the European Climate Pact.

 The Commission will support these policy goals with appropriate funding and financing tools:

The European Green Deal Investment Plan, proposed at the start of 2020 will unlock at least €1 trillion of sustainable investments over the next decade to help finance the climate transition. The InvestEU guarantee will support this by de-risking private funds,

a Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy will aim at redirecting private capital flows to green investments, ensuring that sustainable investments are mainstreamed across our financial system,

The Just Transition Mechanism, and its accompanying Just Transition Fund, proposed in early 2020 will support the most affected regions and sectors ensuring the transition is fair and leaves no one behind. It will help them to modernise and diversify their economies and alleviate the social and economic costs of the transition.

How will the greenhouse gas emission reduction trajectory from 2030 to 2050 be set?

The Commission’s proposal outlines a process for setting out a trajectory from 2030 for net greenhouse gas emissions and removals at EU level to achieve over time the 2050 climate-neutrality objective. The trajectory will inter alia be based on latest scientific evidence and best available technologies. It will take into account cost-effectiveness and economic efficiency, fairness and solidarity across and within Member States and the necessity to ensure that the transition is just and socially fair.

Every five years, the Commission will consider the latest international and scientific developments as well as existing EU policies, legislation and progress made towards the 2050 objectives, to assess whether the trajectory is still adequate or needs to be updated. This process is aligned with the timelines of the ‘global stocktake’ under the Paris Agreement, under which Parties periodically take stock of the implementation of the agreement and collective progress towards its goals.

How can the EU achieve the objective of climate-neutrality by 2050?

The European Commission set out its vision for a climate-neutral EU by 2050 in its communication ‘A Clean Planet for all‘ in November 2018. The in-depth analysis underlying the vision looked at all the key sectors and explored several pathways for the transition. It showed that it is possible for the EU to move to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, using existing and emerging technological solutions, empowering citizens and aligning action in key areas such as industrial policy, finance or research, while ensuring social fairness for a just transition.

The transition to climate-neutrality will require action in all sectors, from changing how we generate energy and produce food to how we consume goods and services, to the jobs we hold and the way we travel. Ambitious action will help both protect our planet and improve our quality of life, through benefits such as cleaner air, water and soil; healthier food; more energy-efficient housing; better transport alternatives; and new opportunities for European businesses to take the lead in developing clean products and technologies.

This transition will require significant investments. To this end, the Commission put forward in January 2020 a European Green Deal Investment Plan to mobilise at least €1 trillion of sustainable investments over the next decade, as well as a Just Transition Mechanism to ensure that the transition towards a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair way, with targeted support for the most affected regions.

Modernising and decarbonising the EU’s economy will stimulate significant additional investment. Today around 2% of GDP is invested in our energy system and related infrastructure. This would have to increase to 2.8% in order to achieve a net-zero greenhouse gas economy. This means considerable additional investments compared to the baseline, in the range of €175-290 billion a year.

This may seem substantial but it is achievable and much better value to society than the cost of inaction which will see climate related damage and health effects take a huge cost on our society. Moreover, inaction leaves us at a competitive disadvantage as neighbouring countries innovate and develop the sustainable technologies of the future.

How are citizens and stakeholders involved?

EU citizens are concerned about climate change and support national and EU action. In the latest Special Eurobarometer on climate change (September 2019), 93% of EU citizens considered climate change a serious problem and 92% agreed that we must make our economy climate-neutral by 2050.

As all parts of society have a part to play in the transition to climate-neutrality, an inclusive and accessible process to exchange best practice and identify actions that contribute to the 2050 objective is an important element of the Climate Law. We all have a duty to act and Europeans have shown their strong will to be part of the change. The European Climate Pact will bring together all of these efforts, involving regions, local communities, civil society, schools, industry and individuals. Today, the Commission has also launched a public consultation on this European Climate Pact, again giving citizens the opportunity to participate in shaping how the Pact will work in practice.

 How will the Climate Pact be developed?

The involvement and commitment of stakeholders and the public at large will be crucial for the success of the European Green Deal. The Climate Pact intends to harness exemplary action on the ground and encourage change in the areas where it is so crucial, such as mobility, buildings’ renovation, energy production and consumption, greening of public and private spaces, as well as in our individual and collective choices and behaviour. It aims at offering both the opportunities and the platforms for valuable initiatives to develop and thrive and will be a key part of the just transition for all. This is an unprecedented exercise and we will need everybody to rally behind and bring ideas to the Pact.

The Pact does not start from scratch. There are many existing examples of efforts from civil society to tackle climate change. The Climate Pact will build on this, and encourage an integrated, structured and more proactive approach to awareness raising and stakeholder action at the European level.

Alongside government policies and regulation, there is a role to play for citizens, communities and organisations in all sectors of our society and economy. The Commission has launched an open public consultation on the Pact to give citizens and stakeholders a role in designing new climate actions, sharing information, launching grassroots activities and showcasing solutions that others can follow. The inputs from this public consultation will be instrumental to shape the Climate Pact before its launch later in 2020.

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CEOs to G7 and World Leaders: Support “Bold” Net-Zero Commitments

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Over 70 CEOs said they stand ready to work with public sector leaders around the world to reduce emissions. Members of the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders signed an Open Letter championing public-private cooperation ahead of the G7 summit in order to supercharge net-zero commitments, polices and actions.

The signatories are looking for governments to accelerate the transition to net-zero before COP26 in order to accelerate even more action from the private sector. The letter emphasizes public-private collaboration as vital and welcomes transformative policy change.

“It is an important and significant move for this many CEOs to put their names forward for deeper collective collaboration,” said Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, World Economic Forum. “It sends a clear signal to policy-makers that many global business leaders are ready to make the transition to a net-zero future. As we move towards COP26, public-private collaboration will be key to unlocking investment, setting more ambitious targets to reduce emissions, and turning this ambition into action.”

The Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders is the only CEO-led community open to all companies worldwide that want to make clear commitments and work to transition to net-zero. Members believe the private sector has a responsibility to actively engage in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help lead the global transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. The World Economic Forum hosts the alliance.

The full text of the Open Letter and the list of signatories can be found here on the here on the Forum’s Agenda news site.

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Recreate, Re-imagine, Restore!

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Leaders in global politics, science, communities, religion and culture joined hands today to officially kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a rallying call for the protection and revival of millions of hectares of ecosystems all around the world for the benefit of people and nature.

Led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the Decade on Restoration – which runs from 2021 to 2030 – was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in a 2019 resolution.

The launch took the form of a high-level virtual gala with the participation, alongside the heads of UNEP and FAO and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, of Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, which hosts World Environment Day on 5 June this year; Pope Francis; Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chair of the African Union; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley. Among the global figures who spoke were UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall and other goodwill ambassadors, advocates, youth representatives, scientists and CEOs.

“By restoring ecosystems, we can drive a transformation that will contribute to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals. The task is monumental. We need to replant and protect our forests. We need to clean up our rivers and seas. And we need to green our cities,” the UN Secretary-General said in his message. “Accomplishing these things will not only safeguard the planet’s resources. It will create millions of new jobs by 2030, generate returns of over $7 trillion dollars every year and help eliminate poverty and hunger.”

The FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, noting that the increasing pressure on the world’s natural resources is affecting the well-being of 40 percent of the global population, called for a change of mindset.

“Business as usual is not an option!” he underscored. “We need to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide, including our farmlands and forests; our rivers and oceans. More efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems can help restore ecosystems and safeguard sustainable food production, leaving no one behind,” he added.

“We must use this moment in history to launch a massive global movement to save our terrestrial and marine ecosystems even as we continue to decarbonize. Everyone has a ‘to-do’ here,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen. “Governments must ensure COVID-19 stimulus packages contribute to a sustainable and equitable recovery from the pandemic. Businesses and the financial sector must reform operations and financial flows so that they restore the natural world. And as individuals and consumers, it is time rethink choices, demand deforestation-free products and vote for sustainability in the polling booths.”

“Restoring the nature we have damaged means, in the first place, restoring ourselves,” said Pope Francis in a video message relayed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State. “We welcome this United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, let us be compassionate, creative and courageous. May we take our proper place as a ‘Restoration Generation.’”

The Decade aims to inspire and support governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, private sector companies, youth, women’s groups, indigenous peoples, farmers, local communities and individuals globally, to collaborate, develop and catalyse restoration initiatives across the world. The effort will involve a raft of activities. They range from redirecting fiscal incentives and financial flows to promote restoration to undertaking research on restoration in terrestrial and marine environments, building the technical capacity of restoration practitioners globally and monitoring global progress on restoration.

The Decade aims to mobilize hundreds of millions of people to restore nature and foster a global restoration culture in which restoration initiatives are scaled up across the planet.

“The world has no choice but to go on a nature positive pathway which will not only boost the economy but also protect the environment,“ said Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, whose country in 2019 embarked on an ambitious plan to plant 10 billion trees.

Welcoming the launch of the UN Decade, Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chair of the African Union, noted that the African continent had made multiple commitments through several regional Declarations, pledges, Calls to Action and pilot activities, but there was a need to mobilize the necessary resources and expertise to lead large-scale implementation.

“The restoration of terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems should be undertaken in such a way as to avoid creating land conflicts or conflicts of use,” he added. “It must therefore be part of visionary spatial planning processes that take into account inter-sectoral trade-offs, respecting land and resource tenure rights of local communities and other vulnerable social groups.”

In her message, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We have to do more to protect and restore natural habitats – and we have to do it now, not some time in the future.”

“We have to ensure now that forests, which we need not least to regulate our climate, are protected and replenished,” she added.

The Chancellor also announced that Germany would be the first country to provide funding – 14 million Euro – to the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The launch of the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration today leads into World Environment Day on 5 June, the United Nations’ flagship day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Held under the theme of ecosystem restoration, this year’s World Environment Day is hosted by Pakistan, which will mark the day and the start of the UN Decade with an event taking place in Islamabad and officiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan with the participation from a host of dignitaries from around the world including UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen and senior officials from FAO, UN-Habitat and UNDP, as well as senior officials from countries including Germany and Saudi Arabia.

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World Environment Day boosts growing global movement to restore damaged ecosystems

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Individuals, communities, civil society, businesses and governments around the world today marked World Environment Day – with official celebrations held in Islamabad – by making commitments and calling for action to restore millions of hectares of ecosystems all around the world for the benefit of people and nature.

Hosted by Pakistan in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), this year’s World Environment Day served as the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). Led by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, speakers at the event – including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, China’s President Xi Jinping, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, heads of UN agencies and government ministers – stressed the importance of restoration in global efforts to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable development.

“The degradation of the natural world is already undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people – or 40 per cent of humanity. Luckily, the Earth is resilient. But she needs our help. We still have time to reverse the damage we have done,” the UN Secretary-General said. “That is why, on this World Environment Day, we are launching the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This global movement will bring together governments, businesses, civil society and private citizens in an unprecedented effort to heal the Earth. By restoring ecosystems, we can drive a transformation that will contribute to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The UN Decade aims to inspire and support governments, UN agencies, civil society, private sector companies, youth, women’s groups, indigenous peoples, farmers, local communities and individuals globally, to collaborate, develop and catalyse restoration initiatives across the world. The Decade aims to mobilize hundreds of millions of people to restore nature and foster a global restoration culture in which restoration initiatives are scaled up across the planet.

“This is an opportunity for the world – these next 10 years, the world has to correct its course. It’s a clash between our greed on the one side and humanity on the other; there needs to be a balance between the two,” said Prime Minister Khan. “When this balance is disturbed and consumerism, consumption and greed reach such a level, this always leads to disastrous consequences for humanity.”

“If we don’t care for our environment, and our ecosystems, it will have severe consequences for the humanity and we will have to pay a big price for this,” he added.

Pakistan has embarked on an ambitious effort to expand and restore its forests as part of its 10 billion-tree drive, recently planting its billionth tree; the country has also pledged to restore about 1 million hectares of degraded lands across the country by 2023 as part of the Bonn Challenge. In addition, Pakistan recently launched its first green bond, seeking $500 million for environmentally friendly projects to enhance the clean energy share in the country’s power sector.

“Restoring ecosystems is a remarkable solution. It slows climate change, brings back lost biodiversity, creates productive land for agriculture, provides jobs and restores nature’s buffers against zoonotic diseases and pandemics,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“If we work hard in four areas – to get finance flows in tune with nature; to protect those that manage land; to make our cities green; and to restore the blue planet – we will heal nature and make everybody’s lives better,” she added.

Other major commitments announced around World Environment Day and the UN Decade include over £8 million in new funding from the UK to protect rare wildlife and vulnerable habitats across the globe; a 8.5 million Euro commitment by Dove and Conservation International to protect and restore 20,000 hectares of forest – the equivalent of 3 million trees – in North Sumatra, Indonesia; a pledge by E.ON, Europe’s largest operator of energy distribution networks, to create biotopes under 13,000 kilometers of high-voltage lines in forest areas; 3 million Euro from Finland to support the launch of, and regional action in developing countries under the UN Decade, and an announcement by Germany that it would be the first country to provide funding – 14 million Euro – to the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. 

Away from Islamabad, World Environment Day events and initiatives took place across the world, including a virtual concert featuring Patti Smith, the Dave Matthews Band, Michael Stipe and other international artists; the world premiere of Is It Too Much to Ask, a song by DJ Don Diablo for #GenerationRestoration; a virtual Ecosystem Restoration Classroom, a new initiative to take young South African learners – and others – on a journey across three unique landscapes threatened by human development; fireside chats with youth organisations and more.

In collaboration with TikTok, UNEP also challenged users on the content platform to share their ecosystem restoration action using the #GenerationRestoration hashtag. Videos with the hashtag have been viewed over 40 million times, with contributions from influencers including UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors Alex Rendell and Antoinette Taus.

UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors Gisele Bündchen, Formula E driver Lucas De Grassi and Dia Mirza also lent their support to the Day on social media, while young artists such as US poet Jordan Sanchez and Indian sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik also created imaginative pieces to highlight the urgent need for restoration.

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