New cabinet must do more to meet EU climate law, says Timmermans

Demonstrators for climate change in Amsterdam in 2015. Photo:
Demonstrators in climate change march in Amsterdam. Photo:

The new cabinet will have to include tougher climate measures in its plans if it is to comply with new European climate legislation, EU commissioner Frans Timmermans has said.

Timmermans, who is executive vice president of the European Green Deal programme, warned that the accord on a new European climate law, which was reached last week, will lead to major changes, particularly for agriculture, the building industry and transport.

The law stipulates that in nine years’ time greenhouse gases in Europe must be reduced by 55% compared to 1990. That is 15% up from the former goal. Net emissions must zero by 2050, making Europe the first energy neutral continent.

Timmermans said the law is the most far-reaching of all climate measures so far. ‘Humanity will have to adjust. It’s an adjustment such as we’ve never seen before in human history. We must learn to live within the limits set by nature: so far we haven’t been able to,’ broadcaster NOS quoted Timmermans as saying.

Member states have not yet voted for the accord and negotiations are yet to start on the legal measures. A package of measures is expected to be ready after the summer.

The European Parliament and climate activists don’t think the law is ambitious enough and lobbied for a 60% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030.

However, Timmermans stressed that this might alienate certain countries. ‘It is more viable this way and it will keep people motivated. (..) Some countries are in the forefront, such as Austria which is getting three quarters of its energy from sustainable sources. Three quarters of Poland’s energy comes from coal. We need to make sure Poland stays onboard.’


But he also said that countries which refuse to do their bit to bring down greenhouse gas emissions could, as a last resort, be prosecuted. ‘We have to be alert for free riders, countries which take it easy on the back of the bike forcing others to pedal all the harder,’ the Dutchman said.

Timmermans also said more will be invested in sustainable energy and that zero emission hydrogen fuel would be given a prominent role.

Last year was the hottest year on record in Europe, with an average temperature increase of 0.4 degrees compared to the preceding five record years.

A 2018 UN report warned that Western Europe, including the Netherlands, will be confronted with extremely high water levels in the event of a rise of 2 degrees of global temperatures with potentially disastrous consequences.

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