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College read-out on the European Climate Law by Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 4 maart 2020.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen

Today, the College discussed the Strategy with Africa, which will be adopted by written finalisation procedure and presented to you by my colleagues Josep Borrell and Jutta Urpilainen.

Vice-President Jourová and Commissioner Dalli also presented the Gender Equality Strategy, which they will present in detail to you tomorrow here in this pressroom.

The College also decided to register a European Citizens' Initiative entitled “VOTERS WITHOUT BORDERS, Full Political Rights for EU Citizens”. You can find more information in a press release online.

Furthermore, Commissioner Kyriakides gave us an overview of the state of play of the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 outbreak and the current and future steps taken by the Member States with the support of the EU. As you know he Commission has set up a new website, which continuously provides day to day information and updates for citizens.

So back to the Climate Law which we have adopted this morning. I'm sure you have all heard what President von der Leyen just said about it and I have very little to add.

This law shows that the EU means business when we pledge to make Europe climate neutral by 2050.

It will help us to stay the course amidst the many other urgencies that will come our way in the next 30 years. So it will allow institutions when there is another crisis to focus on that, as we need to do now on the refugee crisis or the COVID crisis, and at the same time it will make sure that we stay on track to reach climate neutrality by 2050.

It is also something that entrepreneurs and investors have been asking for to give them a clear course that we will stick to so that they know where to invest and where to avoid stranded assets.

And it is of course a clarion call to our partners worldwide to join us on this journey.

You know we pledged to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050. But at the same time it is also an open challenge to others to try and beat us to it. This is a race I like to be in, as everybody wins.

This proposal for a European Climate Law sets the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 - a goal that was established by the European Council and that has full support of the European Parliament.

In other words, we will continue on our path of reducing emissions as far as possible, and we will balance any outstanding emissions with new carbon sinks and storage.

Of course many people are keen as I have seen everywhere to hear the Commission's 2030 targets. To those, I say that our work to assess the impact of our new 2030 target has started and is ongoing. And as you know, we want to find out what the best landing zone is if we want to get to somewhere from 50% towards 55% emission cuts in 2030.

To do that will require huge efforts by all, and that is why we don't want to make thoroughness and detail the victim of political expediency.

I am absolutely convinced that if the Commission were today to announce a figure that has not been fully assessed for impact, then we would have endless discussions on whether the Commission is right and whether the assumptions are correct and we would lose a lot of time.

So to those who say that we are losing time by coming with our plan only in summer, I would say that in my experience - for instance with the plastic strategy - if you do an impact assessment, the facts are no longer disputed and you can move quicker also in the legislative process.

So once we have done this work, we will propose an amendment to the Climate Law that we are presenting today, and will put the 2030 target in there as well.

In addition we are also proposing to set the path for emission reductions from 2030 to 2050, based on the best available science.

So, the European Climate Law will set all the targets we need, but of course it also requires tools to make sure we are hitting those targets.

We will build on the existing governance mechanisms for the Energy Union, and link our work with the five-yearly global stocktake under the Paris Agreement.

Where we see that collective action or national action is not in line with the trajectory we have set, then we make the necessary proposals to correct that.

First of all, from 2021 we will monitor our progress every 5 years and if we find we are off track we will adjust the trajectory.

To be sure, there are not many different lines between 2030 and 2050 one can draw. At the end of the day, it is about hitting climate neutrality in 2050.

And to be perfectly honest with you, I remember very well my experience with the Lisbon strategy; if you have a strategy and you want it to succeed, you have to be clear about the intermediary steps you are taking to get there. Otherwise the strategy remains a thing of words and ambitions but not of concrete results.

So what sorts of proposals could we then make if it is necessary to correct the course?

That could be proposals for additional and stronger binding EU action, for instance with regard to:

The ETS system;

Renewable Energy Directive; and CO2 emissions performance standards for cars and vans;

Land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) regulation;

The Energy Efficiency Directive;

And to make one thing perfectly clear, we will make these proposals and this will be done according to the existing legislative rules with full powers of the co-legislators. That won't change. Parliament and Council remain in charge of the final decision on legislation. We remain in charge on the proposals.

It could also be that we make recommendations to Member States for national measures.

Let me say a few words about Adaptation.

Whatever we achieve in the next 5 years, and indeed in the next 30 years, we will still have to prepare to face the impacts of our changing climate.

The time has come and gone, where we could say, let's not talk about adaptation because that is almost like admitting defeat. Adaptation is an essential element of our strategy.

I have just come back from Africa and there it is very clear that adaptation measures are urgently needed and that we will also have to take our international responsibility to help African countries do that. But also increasingly in Europe, especially in the Mediterranean area, we see that adaptation is more and more important.

Floods in one corner of Europe, droughts in another corner, forest fires, wild fires, crop failures, we need to adapt to a situation that is already changing!

The European Climate Law will also require Member States to enhance their adaptive capacity and strengthen their resilience and our collective resilience.

So we will follow this up with a new EU Adaptation Strategy, which will come out later this year.

The final thing I want to touch on today is action by citizens and by civil society.

We want to launch a European Climate Pact to help harness and channel everybody's efforts to change the way we produce, consume, use and reuse, and discard.

The big and small pledges that we take everyday, to ourselves or to our loved-ones, to our friends, to our neighbours, colleagues or our employers and employees.

We see this also in the Commission, our commitment to become climate neutral in 2030 has direct consequences for everyone in this institution and we are seeing this every day when we are mapping out what needs to be done.

So we want to collect all the knowledge that is out there, we want to share it, and we want to inspire each other to step out of a carbon-fuelled world towards a de-carbonised world that is healthier, cleaner, safer, and more sustainable; and we will leave no one behind.

We are inspired by grassroots organisations. This morning President von der Leyen had invited Greta Thunberg to attend the beginning of the college meeting and to share her view with us.

And as I said to her this morning, I am sure that without the movement she has inspired and she is leading, probably today we would not have a Green Deal. And probably today I would not be talking about something that is quite unique and quite forward looking, this Climate Law.

I have listened carefully to Greta and the message I take away from Greta's words is: this planet does not belong to those in power or the generations in power, it belongs to the whole of humanity.

I feel a strong responsibility, I have kids in her generation, I am fortunate enough to have kids in the millennial generation and in the generation Z and I feel a strong responsibility that, together with them, we should make sure we make a success of European climate neutrality by 2050.

And as I repeat time and time again when people are saying this is about saving the planet: no it's not!

The planet can take care of itself and if we are too much of a nuisance for the planet, it will get rid of us, like the planet got rid of other species before.

No, this is about saving humanity. This is about creating the right conditions so that humanity can live in balance with its natural environment, in a way that is equitable and in a way that does not say to those in the world that aspire to our level of life, who aspire to live like us, “no that's not possible because mother earth could not afford that”. Yes, she can if we adapt, if we do this, if we stick to this road, then we can reach this.

This is a problem that is huge, that is existential but it is also a problem that can be fixed.

Thank you very much


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