The new cabinet will have to take a step on climate policy. That says Commissioner Frans Timmermans, who is dealing with climate change. He warns that the new European Climate Act will lead to major changes.
Last week, an agreement was reached on a new European climate law. It says that in nine years‘ time, the EU will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990, with the old ambition being a 40% reduction. By 2050, net emissions should be zero. Europe wants to become the first climate-neutral continent.
According to Timmermans, the agreement goes beyond all climate measures taken so far. “Humanity will have to adapt. That’s an adaptation I don‘t think we’ve ever seen in human history. We must learn to live within the limit that nature sets us: and we cannot yet.”
Last year was the warmest year ever measured in Europe. The annual temperature in 2020 was at least 0.4 degrees higher than in the previous five record years, reported by the EU Climate Service last week.
With the agreement reached, it is legally established what the EU wants to achieve in the end. How exactly that is to be done is still unclear. The Member States have not yet agreed to the agreement. Negotiations have yet to start. After the summer, a package of Brussels climate legislation will follow.
According to Timmermans, we will see an impact on agriculture, construction and transport. More investment will be made in renewable energy, in other words in the sun and wind. Furthermore, according to him, the advent of hydrogen is going to take a high flight.
It will be difficult enough for the new cabinet, says Timmermans, because in a number of areas the Netherlands has to make more ambitious policies. “In agricultural policy, for example, you will have to look very closely at how to reduce the use of pesticides by more than half. That must also be done in a coalition agreement.”
The European Parliament wanted a 60% reduction in emissions by 2030, and climate activists also feel that European ambitions do not go far enough.
Timmermans says that the feasibility is especially important. “With this approach, we push Member States, people and businesses to the limit. Then it remains feasible, and then you keep people there too.”
Some countries are already close to the objectives, others are still a long way from them. “In Austria, three-quarters of the electricity is produced sustainably. In Poland, three quarters of the energy is generated by coal. So these are two totally different starting positions, but we have to make sure that Poland also stays there.”
the time being, the European Commission cannot force Member States to do more if they refuse to do so. Moreover, the reduction target applies to the EU as a whole, not to individual countries. According to Timmermans, legal action against countries is a last resort. “But what countries pay very much attention to is that there are no free riders. No countries that sit on the back of the carrier so that the other one has to ride harder.”