EDITORIAL: ⏩ EU in Override

🏃The Good, the Bad, and the Sprint Towards the Finish Line

19.01.2024: Brussels goes into centrifuge mode. As EU lawmakers rush to close Green Deal files in one of the latest plenaries of the legislature, Von der Leyen’s administration prepares the latest tracks for its climate legacy: the 2040 targets. All this unfolds under the hectic coordination of the Belgian presidency of the EU Council, who just took office. Join us on this thrilling roller coaster ride! 


OFFICE ROTATION: Adiós Spain, bienvenue/welkom Belgium 👋 The Belgians takes over the rotating 6-months Presidency of the EU Council from the Spaniards, who despite substantial efforts, have delivered mixed results on Green Deal files. The race against clock to close all the remining dossiers is now real, as this EU term terminates in March. Want to know the scale of the challenge? Read our ten green tests to the Belgian presidency. 

New pact on the horizon? EEB joined the 27 Environment Ministers at the informal ENVI council this week. There, beyond shaking hands with the ministers, we actively supported the Belgian Presidency’s emphasis on climate adaptation, circular economy, and the just transition. We also highlighted that 2024 is not only crucial for delivering the Green Deal, but to put in place a renewed agenda of hope for the post-elections period where no one is left behind. Here is more.  


Victory against greenwashing: The EU Parliament gave its final blessing to a new EU law empowering consumers in the face of corporate greenwashing! Once enforced, the Directive will ban a series of greenwashing tactics, including climate neutral claims, green credentials and sustainability labels. Currently, 75% of the products on the EU market carry an implicit or explicit green claim, but more than half of these claims are vague, misleading or unfounded. Read our press release

Climate win on refrigerants: When Europe wants, Europe leads and delivers. This week, EU lawmakers voted to send fluorinated gases (F-gases) to history books. Nearly 2.5% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the entire EU aviation sector, will be cut – making Europe the world’s first HFC-free continent by 2050. This ban is crucial for promoting climate-friendly alternatives for heat pumps, refrigeration, air-conditioning… 

Step towards banning mercury: EU lawmakers also voted in favour of phasing out toxic mercury products such as dental amalgam and mercury-based lamps by 2025. Hopefully this will spur other parts of the world to further reduce, and where possible, eliminate the use and trade of this dangerous neurotoxin.  


New targets: The EU Commission is working on new emissions-slashing goals for 2040, to be unveiled on 6 February. We joined academics, civil society organisations and progressive businesses in a letter calling on the EU to ensure separate targets for emissions reductions and removals. They are not the same and counting them together is a zero-sum game. Land-based carbon sequestration and permanent carbon removals (through capture and storage technologies) should have their own targets. 

New distractions: So far, the EU’s triple climate architecture has laid its foundations on emissions reductions, renewables, and energy efficiency targets. What’s new for 2040? The EU is also releasing a strategy on carbon capture and storage (CCS) for the industry, focusing on new targets for emissions that, instead of being cut, will be captured and pumped back into the ground. Sci-fi as it may sound, this technology will have a role to play in hard-to-abate sectors. Regrettably, the leaked plan shows a shopping list of CCS uses with no direction and no exclusive focus on unavoidable emissions, opening another loophole to continue burning fossil fuels. 

Old distractions: On the same date, an alliance of EU countries supporting Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), AKA mini nuclear plants, will be officially launched. Coincidence? It does not look like it. The France-led push to put nuclear power on an equal footing with renewables in the EU climate policy is at its peak. Will the EU give in to this pressure and replace 2040 renewables targets with “low carbon” targets? We have been warning that the nuclear lobby and its desperate fight for survival is putting Europe’s decarbonisation at risk – and no, SMRs do not solve any of the main problems of nuclear, too slow and too expensive to save the climate. 

Ambition: Europe can reach climate neutrality and 100% renewables already in 2040, according to our Paris Agreement Compatible scenario. The most ambitious EU countries are calling for a 90-95% emissions reduction target for 2040. And this group has been joined by a flashy new ally: Poland. The new Polish government has made it clear to Europe this week that its days as the bloc’s main climate spoiler are over. Yay! 


Oily agenda loses in court! Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) have emerged victorious in a court case against the Norwegian state challenging the illegal permits granted for three oil projects. 

Europe is getting hot: 2023 was Earth’s hottest year on record and 2024 is expected to be even warmer. This piece in Euronews dives into how Europe is preparing for extreme heat. 


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