Key EU Climate Change Policies from 2021

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Facing palpable challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, throughout 2021, the European Union (EU) had revised, amended, and added energy and emission targets outlined in the European Green Deal, including the adoption of the Fit for 55 Package into the European Climate Law. This article highlights the key climate change and environmental policies put forward by the EU this past year.

EU Green Deal

The EU Green Deal sets out targets for achieving net-zero emissions in Europe by 2050, creating economic growth while protecting biodiversity, and eliminating pollution while increasing the competitiveness of EU industries, and ensuring a fair transition for regions and workers.

The key Green Deal targets include:

  • European Climate Law – ensuring climate-neutrality by 2050.
  • European Climate Pact – engaging citizens and all parts of society in climate action.
  • 2030 Climate Target Plan – reducing net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a minimum of 55% by 2030.
  • New EU Strategy on Climate Adaptation – adapting European societies to the inevitable impacts of climate change by 2050.

In July 2021, the Green Deal was amended with a series of legislative proposals detailing the roadmap to net-zero emissions by 2050, including the transitional target of a reduction in GHG emissions of 55% minimum by 2030, compared to 1990 levels – the so-called Fit for 55 Package, which was subsequently written into the European Climate Law.

Fit for 55 Package

The Fit for 55 Package was launched by the European Commission to support making EU policies fit for the European Green Deal target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The package presents an updated GHG emissions reduction target by 2030, from 40% to a minimum of 55%, as the previous policy framework was deemed insufficient in achieving net-zero by 2050. Eight revisions and five new proposals linked to the European Green Deal were presented on 14 July 2021, covering areas of (a) the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), (b) Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), (c) Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), (d) taxation, (e) land use, (f) transportation, and (g) infrastructure to align them with the targets outlined in the European Climate Law. In addition, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) were amended to support the new 2030 GHG emission target.

EU Climate Law

The European Climate Law entered into force on 29 July 2021, making the targets of the European Green Deal legally binding. The Climate Law further sets out a roadmap charting the path to climate neutrality and measures to keep track of progress:

  • 2030 target of at least 55% GHG emission mitigation compared to 1990 levels as presented in the Fit for 55 Package;
  • Processes for setting a 2040 climate target;
  • Commitment to negative GHG emissions past 2050;
  • Alignment of EU policies with the climate neutrality objective; and
  • Commitment to prepare sector-specific roadmaps to climate neutrality in different areas of the economy

EU Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Targets

To meet the more ambitious GHG targets for 2030, the amount of renewable energy consumed must increase while final consumption must be reduced. The European Commission proposed revisions to the RED and the EED in July 2021 as part of the Fit for 55 Package to achieve this goal.

The amendment of the RED sets a new target of 40% renewable energy use by 2030, up from the previously set target of 32%. This is roughly double the renewable share compared to 2019, which amounted to 19.7%. The proposal seeks to enable more flexibility in the energy systems, streamlining the integration of renewable energy into the grid and strengthening the sustainability criteria for biomass from forest resources.

The amendment of the EED sets out a more ambitious binding target for reducing energy consumption at the EU level, increasing the energy efficiency target for 2030 from the previous set level of 32.5%, to 36% for final energy consumption. Other changes in the EED proposal include an increased annual energy savings obligation for EU Member States between 2024 and 2030, from 0.8% to 1.5%, and a requirement for the public sector to renovate 3% of its
buildings each year.

How NUS Can Help

Our sustainability team consists of EU environmental policy experts who are able to advise clients of all sizes on the obligations and opportunities following new legislative, policy, and compliance schemes. As more and more corporations look to decarbonise their business operations, a robust understanding of the EU sustainability landscape is a key requirement. Contact our net-zero experts today to learn more.


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