European Union aims to become the world's first climate neutral economy by 2050

Key Points
  • The EU has announced a plan to achieve a zero-emissions climate within the next three decades.
  • Researchers this week urged the international community to act now on climate change.
European Union flags in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Daniel Roland | AFP | Getty Images

The European Union has unveiled a strategy to become the world's first climate neutral economy by 2050.

Its plan, announced Thursday, will include steps such as investing in technological solutions to help lower carbon emissions. The European Commission said the strategy would be applied to almost all EU policies.

Climate neutrality is achieved when carbon emissions are at zero. The Commission said achieving this by 2050 would help it meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement – ensuring temperature increases don't exceed 2 degrees Celsius and aiming to keep them below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, it said the long-term strategy's purpose was not to set targets, but to establish a vision and direction for member states.

The Commission added that the strategy was designed to be "socially fair" by strengthening the economy and creating jobs.

Joint action will be taken in seven key areas, including energy efficiency, deployment of renewables, and carbon capture and storage to address remaining emissions.

The Commission called on ministers in member states to debate how their domestic policies could be shaped to comply with the strategy.

Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission's vice president for energy, said the strategy proved that meeting climate change targets did not have to be detrimental to the economy.

"We cannot safely live on a planet with a climate that is out of control. But that does not mean that to reduce emissions we should sacrifice the livelihoods of Europeans," he said in a press release.

"Over the last years, we have shown how to reduce emissions while creating prosperity, high-quality local jobs, and improving people's quality of life. Our strategy now shows that by 2050, it is realistic to make Europe both climate neutral and prosperous, while leaving no European and no region behind."

Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc added that the EU's goal to reach zero emissions by 2050 would see investments in zero-emissions vehicles and smart infrastructure, as well as an increase in the adoption of alternative fuels.

High stakes

On Wednesday, a report published by The Lancet medical journal showed that rising temperatures were already exposing the global population to "an unacceptably high health risk."

Jointly authored by doctors, academics and policy professionals from 27 international institutions, the report warned that populations and their health systems were ill equipped to cope with rapidly rising temperatures.

Kris Ebi, professor of global health and environmental and occupational health science at the University of Washington, said action was vital.

"Increased mortality in extreme heatwaves is not something that may happen, it's happening now and will continue as global temperatures continue to rise," she said in a press release.

"There is abundant evidence that communities are not prepared for the ongoing increases in the frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves. Actions are needed right now, matched with investments, such as implementing early warning systems for heatwaves, including mapping vulnerable populations and providing interventions designed to increase resilience during hot weather."

Meanwhile, a UN Environment report published Tuesday warned that "unprecedented and urgent action" was required from every country in the world if the Paris Agreement's objectives were to be met.