Europe to consider law on climate neutrality by March

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union 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 struggle against global warming, a draft showed on Friday.

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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 globally 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 says it wants to be at the forefront of action. But there are divisions.

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

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

The discussions over funding to tackle climate change are closely tied to negotiations over the EU’s 2021-2027 budget.

In a letter released on Friday, the heads of state of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania called for “significant EU investment” in the transition to a fossil-free economy, in addition to the “just transition fund”.

They said plans for them to receive less money in the EU budget were “detrimental” to meeting environmental goals.

The draft document 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.

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 wants to earmark money in the EU’s next long-term budget to support clean public transport and take action in ports to clean up ships’ emissions.

The draft said the EU executive would present a plan on financing the shift to a greener economy in June 2020 and ensure trade agreements include an ambitious chapter on sustainable development.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Jonas Ekblom; Writing by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Timothy Heritage