Environment ministers’ chance to boost action on climate and deforestation
4 min read

Environment ministers’ chance to boost action on climate and deforestation

Energy prices are through the roof. We need to get off fossil fuels as fast as possible.

What’s happening?

On 17 March, EU Environment Ministers will discuss five of the European Commission’s climate proposals for 2030, which fall under the ‘Fit for 55%’ package. Ministers will also discuss their position on the draft proposal for an EU deforestation law.

The five climate files on the agenda are:

  • the revision of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) - the EU’s carbon market which covers the power sector, and industries like cement and steel;
  • the revision of the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) - which sets national emissions reduction targets on non-ETS sectors;
  • the revision of the regulation on land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) - which looks at the role of land and trees in absorbing carbon;
  • the Social Climate Fund - which aims to cushion the most vulnerable from higher energy and transport costs and help them to join in the transition to climate neutrality.
  • Ministers will also discuss the revision of CO2 emission limits for cars and vans.

Why does it matter?

We are being impacted by climate change already, and we will all be impacted by the action needed to tackle it. But if it’s planned and managed properly, and takes people’s lives and needs into account, climate action can offer huge changes for the better.

However, the European Commission’s ‘Fit for 55%’ proposals do not fit the bill either in terms of their alignment with the globally agreed 1.5°C temperature rise goal, or in the way they consider citizens.

EU ministers and the European Parliament now have a chance to improve the proposed climate laws before they are finalised.

Forests and other precious ecosystems are being destroyed around the world at an alarming rate. This devastation is directly connected to the meat, dairy, palm oil, coffee and chocolate we eat in Europe.

Currently, tens of thousands of citizens are calling on their governments to keep deforestation off EU supermarket shelves.

Now, EU Member States have the opportunity to support strong legislation to end EU-driven deforestation.

Alex Mason, head of climate and energy at WWF European Policy Office said:
“Energy prices are through the roof, and the poorest citizens are bearing the brunt of the crisis. It’s clearer than ever that we need to get off fossil fuels as fast as possible. This means a massive programme of energy efficiency, ramping up wind and solar, and helping affected communities as we do so.”

Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office said:
“Tropical deforestation has doubled in just two decades and it will continue to accelerate  - and the EU is indirectly complicit through its consumption. Ministers must take a position that brings us closer to ending this destruction. We need a real lion and not a paper tiger.”  

What does WWF want to see?

On climate

To be in line with science, the EU needs to reduce emissions by at least 65% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The agreed target is for 55% ‘net’ reductions. So it is crucial to ensure the Fit for 55% files bring greater ambition.

This means implementing the EU Treaty’s ‘polluter pays’ principle by ending free ‘pollution permits’ under the Emissions Trading System. Right now, most industrial sectors do not have to pay the carbon price, which is why industry has barely lowered its emissions in 20 years.

The proposed ‘Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism’ should be brought in only as free pollution permits are phased out in those sectors. It means using auctioning allowances to support industrial decarbonisation, and all ETS revenues going to support socially fair climate action, and the ‘Social Climate Fund’. The Social Climate Fund itself should be bigger, and the social climate plans - which set out how the money should be spent  at national level - must be inclusively developed, including only investments that are truly green and fair.

Nature’s role fighting climate change should also be increased through a higher carbon absorption target - WWF supports a goal of 600 million tonnes for the LULUCF sector rather than the proposed 310 million tonnes, and an end to letting Member States use removals in the land sector to offset fossil fuel emissions.

WWF is also calling for the the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) revision to require countries to set national net zero targets - currently only a handful of EU countries have done so.

On deforestation

Achieving climate neutrality in the EU by 2050 cannot be done without tackling the impact of  EU consumption on nature and people.

This is why environment ministers must commit to ambitious and effective legislation that reduces the EU’s footprint on nature destruction.

This means that the EU Deforestation law must require all products entering the EU market to be genuinely sustainable, not just legal according to the law.  In addition, all products must be traceable down to where they were produced or harvested to guarantee they are deforestation-free.

Not following the rules must have consequences. New legislation must ensure strong penalties and clear rules for checks, controls but also actions in case of non-compliance in EU Member States. Rules must be applied to all companies, no matter their size or what countries they source from.

EU consumption is also taking a big toll on non-forests ecosystems, such as savannahs and grasslands, which can store two times more carbon than tropical forests. ENVI ministers must support the inclusion of these ecosystems in the law from the start as well. This  to ensure that what we consume in Europe does not lead to the destruction of our planet.

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