Sustainable Energy

The European Union's proposed climate law has not gone down well with Greta Thunberg

Key Points
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen describes law as "legal translation of our political commitment." 
  • The proposals drew criticism from environmental organizations and activists. 
Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images

A proposed climate law to enforce the European Union's commitment to be climate-neutral by the year 2050 has drawn criticism from environmental organizations and activists including Greta Thunberg.

Plans for the European Climate Law, as it's known, were unveiled by the European Commission on Wednesday.

In a statement issued alongside the announcement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the law as the "legal translation of our political commitment, and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future. It is the heart of the European Green Deal." Among other things, the Commission said its Climate Law included "measures to keep track of progress and adjust our actions accordingly."

Announced toward the end of last year, one of the European Green Deal's central aims is for the EU to be climate-neutral — that is to say "an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions" — by the year 2050.

Poland, which is heavily dependent on coal, is currently the only EU country not to back this aim. In December 2019, the European Council noted this stance, stating: "One Member State, at this stage, cannot commit to implement this objective as far as it is concerned, and the European Council will come back to this in June 2020."

EU's proposed climate law amounts to 'surrender'

While von der Leyen was keen to praise the proposed legislation, it drew sharp rebukes from both environmental organizations and campaigners.

"When your house is on fire, you don't wait a few more years to start putting it out. And yet this is what the Commission are proposing today," Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said during an appearance at the European Parliament's Environment Committee on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old went onto describe the proposed climate law as "surrender, because nature doesn't bargain and you cannot make deals with physics," a remark which drew applause.

This sense of urgency was echoed by Molly Walsh, a climate justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

"A target 30 years in the future does not represent emergency climate action – our house is on fire and Europe is still twiddling its thumbs," she said in a statement.

"We need to end the fossil fuel age in years, not decades, to keep the planet safe."