EU clinches deal on climate law to speed emissions cuts

The European Union (EU) clinched a deal in the early hours of Wednesday on a landmark climate change law that puts new, tougher greenhouse gas emissions targets at the heart of all EU policymaking.

The deal arrives just in time for a summit of world leaders hosted by the US government on Thursday and Friday, where the EU and other global powers will promote their pledges to protect the planet.

The climate law will guide the EU's regulations in the coming decades, including a target to reduce net emissions at least 55 percent by the end of the decade to steer it towards reaching zero net emissions by 2050

The European climate law will guide the bloc's regulations in the coming decades. It includes a target to reduce net emissions at least 55 percent by the end of the decade from 1990 levels – lower than the 60 percent goal sought by the European Parliament – to steer it towards reaching zero net emissions by 2050.

If adopted globally, the net zero by 2050 pathway would limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

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After months of wrangling and a full night of negotiations on Tuesday, negotiators representing the European Parliament and the 27 EU governments finished the law. The deal still needs formal approval from parliament and national governments.

"This is a landmark moment for the EU. We have reached an ambitious agreement to write our climate neutrality target into binding legislation, as a guide to our policies for the next 30 years," Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said in a statement.

"Today's agreement also reinforces our global position as a leader in tackling the climate crisis."

A handful of countries, including Britain and New Zealand, have enshrined net zero emissions goals into law, but the 27-country EU is the biggest emitter to do so.

The target to cut EU-wide net emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030, from 1990 levels, replaces a previous goal for a 40 percent cut. By 2019, EU emissions were already 24 percent lower than in 1990.

EU lawmakers had wanted to go further to 60 percent by 2030. Environmental campaigners had said the cut should be 65 percent.

READ MORE: EU leaders clinch deal on tougher 2030 climate goal

Today's agreement also reinforces our global position as a leader in tackling the climate crisis.

Frans Timmermans, Vice-president of the European Commission

"I'm satisfied today," said Swedish Social Democrat Jytte Guteland, the European Parliament's lead negotiator. "The most important thing was to make sure that science would be more integrated in the EU law."

Green EU lawmaker Michael Bloss said Brussels had sacrificed ambition to rush through a deal in time for the US summit.

The 2030 target sets the stage for a major package of EU regulations due in June to cut emissions, including proposals to revamp the EU carbon market, tougher CO2 standards for cars, and a border tariff to impose CO2 costs on imports of polluting goods.

Negotiators agreed to limit the amount of emissions removals that can be counted towards the 2030 target, to 225 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

That aims to ensure the goal is met by cutting emissions from polluting sectors, rather than relying on removing CO2 from the atmosphere through carbon-absorbing forests.

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The law requires Brussels to create an independent body of scientific experts to advise on climate policies, plus a greenhouse gas budget laying out the total emissions the EU can produce from 2030-2050, without thwarting its climate goals.