November 29, 2019 / 12:03 PM / 11 days ago

Europe to consider law on climate neutrality by March

BRUSSELS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The European Union (EU) executive will propose by March 2020 a new climate law to turn the bloc neutral in terms of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and help lead the planet’s struggle against global warming, a draft showed on Friday.

The European Commission document, to be published on Dec. 11 and seen by Reuters, also said it would by next October present a plan to halve the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Anxiety is growing around the world that governments are not doing enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s target of curbing emissions sufficiently to keep temperature rises to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

The 28-nation EU, where floods and heat waves of recent years have been increasingly linked to climate change, says it wants to be at the forefront of action. But there are divisions.

Some EU countries dependent on coal for energy like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, oppose the 2050 carbon neutral target, arguing they need help transforming energy production.

To win them over, the Commission, whose proposed laws require consent of members and the EU parliament, wants to create a “just transition fund” to wean economies off coal.

It did not specify any financial details.

The draft document also said the EU executive would propose extending the bloc’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to the maritime sector and possibly road transport, plus reducing free carbon dioxide allowances for airlines.

The Commission said it would push for a shift from road and aviation transport to rail, try to ensure that 75% of road transport is moved to other means, and deploy alternative infrastructure and fuels.

Moreover, the EU also wants to create sustainability criteria for batteries, launch a forest restoration plan and strengthen requirements for monitoring air pollution in cities.

The Commission, whose incoming head Ursula von der Leyen is prioritising the environment, wants to earmark a yet unspecified amount of money in the EU’s next long-term budget from 2021 to support clean public transport and take action in ports to clean up ships’ emissions.

The draft said the EU executive would present an action plan on financing the shift to a greener economy in June 2020 and make sure every future trade agreement includes an ambitious dedicated chapter on sustainable development. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Writing by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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