On March 4, 2020, the European Commission delivered the first major climate piece of its European Green Deal: it proposed a “European Climate Law,” which takes the form of a Regulation and establishes a framework for the irreversible and gradual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the enhancement of removals in the European Union.  The proposal and the fact that it takes the form of a binding Regulation may have a significant impact on a wide variety of legislative and policy initiatives that the EU and its Member States may take within the next years.

The proposed Regulation would set into binding legislation the EU’s 2050 climate-neutrality objective and require the European Parliament, Council and Commission, as well as the EU Member States, to take the necessary measures to enable the collective achievement of this objective. It will also require the European Commission to review, by September 2020, the EU’s emission reduction target for 2030, in light of the climate neutrality objective for 2050, and to explore options for a new 2030 emission reduction target of 50% to 55% in comparison to 1990 emissions.

The proposed Regulation would also empower the Commission to adopt Regulations, without having to negotiate them with Member States and the Parliament, setting up a trajectory at Union level to achieve the neutrality objective by 2050.  This trajectory must start from the 2030 target and be amended in line with updates under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement.

The proposed Regulation would also require the EU institutions and Member States to continuously adopt measures to adapt to climate change.

Finally, the proposed Regulation would also require the Commission to engage with all stakeholders to enable and empower them to take action towards a climate-neutral and climate-resilient society.

The Commission’s proposal to enshrine an EU neutrality target in a binding EU Regulation may have a significant legal and policy impact in the EU during the next decades.  The Regulation may  create a legal basis to oblige EU institutions and Member States to ensure that any policies they adopt are aimed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, and also to allow NGOs to challenge before EU and Member State courts any EU and national measures that are not compatible with that objective.

Moreover, NGOs are demanding the Parliament and Council to include in the proposed Regulation explicit provisions allowing citizens and NGOs to take legal action against EU and Member State authorities for failure to comply with the 2050 climate neutrality objective.  This could provide a boost to the climate change litigation that NGOs are already bringing against governments and companies across Europe (see for example the Urgenda case in the Netherlands).  In this context, it is worth noting that the European Parliament’s Resolution on the Green Deal of January 15, 2020 stressed that “all people living in Europe should be granted the fundamental right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and to stable climate, without discrimination, and that this right must be delivered through ambitious policies and must be fully enforceable through the justice system at national and EU level.”

The European Parliament and Council must now consider the proposed Climate Change Law for adoption through the so-called ordinary legislative procedure.  The Commission hopes that the Parliament and Council will be able to reach an agreement on the text of the Regulation by the Autumn of 2020, in advance of the next UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow in November 2020.

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Photo of Cándido García Molyneux Cándido García Molyneux

Cándido García Molyneux is a Spanish of counsel in the Brussels office of Covington & Burling.  His practice focuses on EU environmental law, renewable energies, and international trade law.  He advises clients on legal issues concerning environmental product regulation, emissions trading, renewable energies…

Cándido García Molyneux is a Spanish of counsel in the Brussels office of Covington & Burling.  His practice focuses on EU environmental law, renewable energies, and international trade law.  He advises clients on legal issues concerning environmental product regulation, emissions trading, renewable energies, energy efficiency, shale gas, chemical law, product safety, waste management, and international trade law and non-tariff trade barriers.  Mr. García Molyneux was very much involved in the legislative process that led to the revision and amendment of the ETS Directive and Renewable Energies Directive.  He is an external professor of environmental law and policy at the College of Europe.

Photo of Sinéad Oryszczuk Sinéad Oryszczuk

Sinéad Oryszczuk is special counsel and solicitor advocate in Covington’s London Life sciences and Environment regulatory team. Ms. Oryszczuk’s UK and EU law practice is diverse, spanning energy, environment, life sciences, consumer products, and technology sectors. She supports a variety of internal and…

Sinéad Oryszczuk is special counsel and solicitor advocate in Covington’s London Life sciences and Environment regulatory team. Ms. Oryszczuk’s UK and EU law practice is diverse, spanning energy, environment, life sciences, consumer products, and technology sectors. She supports a variety of internal and in-house teams including corporate, real estate, projects, construction, planning, health and safety, IP, insurance, and banking. She is experienced in contentious matters, assisting clients before criminal, civil, administrative and specialist tribunals, and non-contentious (regulatory, transactional/M&A) matters. She has advised in relation to some of the UK’s most high profile recent environment cases up to Court of Appeal level, as well as large group actions, and has brought cases before the European Court in life sciences matters. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Oryszczuk spent 5 years in the UK’s leading specialist energy, environment, and regulatory team.

Ms. Oryszczuk has broad experience in traditional environment areas such as contaminated land and allocation of environment liabilities in transactions, permitting, waste, climate change, species-specific requirements, emissions, and contentious work including prosecutions relating to large scale pollution incidents, environmental damage, and general regulatory and subject specific ad-hoc advice. Ms. Oryszczuk also provides advice on specialist scientific and technical regulatory aspects spanning a variety of sectors. She has built up particular expertise in chemicals law and hazardous/regulated substances (e.g. REACH, CLP, RoHS, biocides, nuclear/radiological), novel technologies and agri-tech (e.g. advanced genetic engineering, GMOs, nano), and corporate/accounting and regulatory energy and environment reporting and efficiency (e.g. EU ETS, CRC, mandatory energy audits (ESOS) and non-financial reporting).

Ms. Oryszczuk advises day-to-day on transactional matters and liability (including director/officer and parent company), land contamination and hazardous substances, and in multinational competitive bids. She has a broad experience including in relation to manufacturing and waste facilities, energy storage projects, wind farms, grid projects, redevelopments and remediation projects, landfills, mines and minerals operations, and nuclear and radioactive materials facilities. She has acted for a variety of parties including buyers/sellers, tenants/landlords, bidders, lenders, insurers, developers, authorities/regulators, trustees, insolvency practitioners, and private equity/funders. Ms. Oryszczuk provides specialist corporate due diligence (including vendor due diligence). She often acts as specialist outside counsel and has drafted bespoke instruments including transfer of liability deeds, contractor T&Cs, site remediation/investigation/access agreements, as well as environment indemnities and warranties. Ms. Oryszczuk often coordinates multinational projects and advice and regularly liaises and negotiates with regulators on behalf of her clients. On corporate work in particular, Ms. Oryszczuk assists very large multinationals (including global asset funds) with complex organisational structures through national and international compliance scenarios, including on corporate reporting and carbon .trading.

On contentious work, Ms. Oryszczuk has taken leading roles in some of the UK’s largest and most high profile environment cases, often building on her science background in respect of issues concerning hazardous substances. She regularly defends in relation to large domestic civil group actions relating to environment issues. More recently she has acted in contentious life sciences cases relating to medicinal products including before the European Court and national regulators, e.g. the UK’s NICE.

Photo of Kevin Poloncarz Kevin Poloncarz

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among…

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among the nation’s leading climate change attorneys and California’s leading environmental lawyers, with sources describing him as “a phenomenal” and “tremendous lawyer.” He was named an “Energy & Environmental Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal in 2017 and was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2018.

He has extensive experience with California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), and is recognized as a leading advisor on carbon markets. He also assists energy-sector clients in obtaining and defending state and federal approvals for major projects throughout California.

Mr. Poloncarz also assists clients with the development and execution of legislative and policy strategies supporting decarbonization, including carbon capture and sequestration, low-carbon fuels, advanced transportation and energy storage, and is a registered lobbyist in California and Oregon.