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European Commission unveils first climate law; Thunberg slams it as 'surrender'

European Commission unveils first climate law; Thunberg slams it as 'surrender'
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The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a plan to introduce its first law aimed at combating climate change.

The proposal looks to make the European Union's (EU) goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 legally binding for all of the bloc's 27 member states. To successfully hit that target, the law proposes a mechanism to raise the EU's emissions reduction target over the next three decades, the commission said in a news release

The European Union’s executive approved the regulation during a meeting attended by Greta Thunberg, the teen climate activist who has been an outspoken advocate for more stringent action to address environmental problems. 

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“We are acting today to make the EU the world's first climate neutral continent by 2050. The Climate Law is the legal translation of our political commitment, and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. 

Thunberg, 17, and other environmental groups have already criticized the proposal, saying it does not go far enough. Thunberg specifically voiced concerns over the law's failure to address emissions targets for 2030. 

“‘Net zero emissions by 2050’ for the EU equals surrender. It means giving up,” she and 33 other youth climate activists said in an open letter published on Tuesday. “We don’t just need goals for just 2030 or 2050. We, above all, need them for 2020 and every following month and year to come.”

"Distant net-zero emission targets will mean absolutely nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon dioxide budget – which applies for today, not a faraway future," they added. 

Environmental activists have also spoken out over the EU's plan to wait until September to review its 2030 emissions target. Greenpeace claimed that the delay would make it "extremely difficult" for EU member states to agree on a new target before the United Nations climate summit in November. 

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More than 10 EU countries, including France, Italy and the Netherlands, have called for the European Commission to revise the 2030 target by June, arguing that the new timeline would allow them to pressure nations like China to strengthen their climate pledges at November's climate talks. 

“Delaying discussions until September would crush the EU’s ability to play a leading role in global climate talks,” Greenpeace climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang told Reuters

The commission's law would reportedly mandate cutting between 50 and 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030. In the intervening years, it would then give the EU the authority to impose stricter regulations to reach the net zero emissions target by 2050. The law must get the approval of the European Parliament and member states.