On the path to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050
Making Europe the first climate-neutral continent in the world is a binding commitment under the EU Climate Law.
We set out proposals in July 2021 to make all sectors of the EU economy fit to meet this challenge, starting by reducing emissions by at least 55% by the end of this decade. The ‘Fit for 55’ legislation, now fully adopted, sets the EU on a path to reach its climate targets by 2030 in a fair, cost effective and competitive way.
This shows that Europe is delivering on its promises made to citizens and international partners to lead the way on climate action and shape the green transition for the benefit of citizens and industries.
Transforming our economy and societies
Climate change is the biggest challenge of our times. And it is an opportunity to build a new economic model.
The European Green Deal set the blueprint for this transformational change. A change which will bring with it many benefits, from creating new opportunities for innovation, investment and green jobs, to improving our health and wellbeing.
All 27 EU Member States committed to turning the EU into the first climate neutral continent by 2050. To get there, they pledged to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
The EU now has legally binding climate targets covering all key sectors of the economy. The overall package includes
- emissions reduction targets across a broad range of sectors
- a target to boost natural carbon sinks
- an updated emissions trading system to cap emissions, put a price on pollution and generate investments in the green transition
- and social support for citizens and small businesses
Member States will now spend 100% of their emissions trading revenues on climate and energy-related projects and the social dimension of the transition.
The new Social Climate Fund will dedicate €65 billion from the EU budget, and over €86 billion in total to support the most vulnerable citizens and small businesses with the green transition. This will ensure there are opportunities for everyone, by tackling inequality and energy poverty, and strengthening the competitiveness of European companies, leaving no one behind.
To ensure a level playing field for European companies, the new Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism will ensure that imported products will also pay a carbon price at the border in the sectors covered. This is a valuable tool for promoting global emissions reductions and leveraging the EU market to pursue our global climate goals.
As a further step on the path towards climate neutrality, the Commission presented its assessment for a 2040 climate target for the EU in February 2024. It recommended to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 90% by 2040 compared to 1990 levels, which is in line with recent scientific advice and the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. The European Parliament and Member States will discuss this target, and the next Commission will put forward legislative proposals on that basis.
Our transition to greener mobility is offering clean, accessible and affordable transport and logistics solutions to all Europeans, connecting rural and remote regions.
With the new CO2 standards, all new cars and vans registered in Europe will be zero-emission by 2035. As an intermediary step towards zero emissions, average emissions of new cars will have to come down by 55% by 2030, and new vans by 50% by 2030. This will put road transport on a firm path to zero-emission mobility in 2050.
The EU is working to create the infrastructure citizens will need to charge zero-emission vehicles, for short and long journeys. Targets will be mandatory to deploy electric recharging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure along European roads. Sufficient public charging capacity will be in place to meet the demands of the bigger fleet of zero-emission cars that will come onto the market as well as further supply of private chargers at home or at work.
In addition, from 2027, road transport will be covered by emissions trading, putting a price on pollution, stimulating cleaner fuel use, and re-investing in clean technologies.
Carbon pricing also applies to the aviation sector. Until now, it applies to flights within the EEA and departing flights to Switzerland and the UK. From 2024, non-domestic flights to and from outermost regions are covered too.
To promote sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), the minimum share of SAF required to be blended with kerosene by aviation fuel suppliers and supplied to EU airports has been increased.
Carbon pricing has also been extended to the maritime sector. A target for gradual reductions for the annual average greenhouse gas intensity of the energy used onboard by ships has been established to promote the uptake of renewable and low-carbon fuels.
The green transition presents a major opportunity for European industry by creating markets for clean technologies and products.
With the Green Deal Industrial Plan, presented in February 2023, we want to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s net-zero industry, and accelerate the transition to climate neutrality.
The aim of the Green Deal Industrial Plan is to secure Europe’s place as the home of industrial innovation and clean tech. To achieve this, the plan covers four key pillars:
- Predictable and simplified regulatory environment
- Faster access to funding
- Enhancing skills
- Facilitating open and fair trade for resilient supply chains
The Net-Zero Industry Act, presented in March 2023, is part of the Green Deal Industrial Plan to scale up manufacturing of clean technologies in the EU, create green jobs and make sure the Union is well-equipped for the clean-energy transition. It will create better conditions to set up net-zero projects in Europe and attract investments.
Objective: at least 40% of the EU’s annual deployment needs for strategic net-zero technologies by 2030.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 requires higher shares of renewable energy and greater energy efficiency.
The Russian aggression on Ukraine and subsequent disruption of the energy market and prices, only reinforced the idea that the EU needs to end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels and accelerate the green transition.
With the REPowerEU plan, presented in May 2022, the Commission unveiled its plans to help the EU
- deploy more renewable energy
- save energy
- diversify its energy supplies
In March 2023, the EU agreed on stronger legislation to increase its renewables capacity, by raising its binding target for 2030 to a minimum of 42.5%, up from the current 32% target, with the ambition to reach 45%. This would almost double the existing share of renewable energy in the EU.
In addition, reducing energy consumption is essential to bring down both emissions and energy costs for consumers and industry.
A new binding EU-level target is established to improve energy efficiency by 11.7% by 2030. Member States will have to make annual savings of an average of 1.49% from 2024 to 2030. Member States will now have to also implement energy efficiency improvements as a priority among people affected by energy poverty.
The tax system for energy products must also support the green transition by giving the right incentives. Still under negotiation, the Commission proposed to align the minimum tax rates for heating and transport with our climate objectives, while mitigating the social impact and supporting vulnerable citizens.
Renovating our homes and buildings will save energy, protect against extremes of heat and cold and help tackle energy poverty.
The Commission aims to at least double renovation rates in the next ten years and make sure renovations lead to higher energy and resource efficiency. This will enhance the quality of life for people living in and using the buildings, reduce Europe's greenhouse gas emissions, foster digitalisation and improve the reuse and recycling of materials.
To spur the necessary renovations, we proposed in 2021 a revision of the EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive to gradually improve the energy performance of buildings across Europe, taking carefully into account national circumstances.
The necessary improvements can be achieved through a number of individual measures, such as installing insulation, replacing old windows or doors, upgrading heating systems, or installing solar panels.
The newly created Social Climate Fund will support EU citizens most affected or at risk of energy or mobility poverty. It will provide over €86 billion in total to support the most vulnerable citizens and small businesses with the green transition.
The Fund will support these vulnerable groups through structural measures and investments in energy efficiency, the renovation of buildings (e.g. insulation), clean heating and cooling (e.g. heat pumps), and integration of renewable energy (e.g. solar panels) as well as in zero- and low-emission mobility and transport, including public transport.
To complement new EU rules on buildings and guide Member States' efforts, there is a new indicative national benchmark of 49% of renewable energy in the buildings sector.
The public sector will also be subject to a new annual energy consumption reduction target of 1.9%. The obligation of Member States to renovate each year at least 3% of total floor area of buildings owned by the public administration is extended from the central government to all levels of public administration.
In addition, from 2027, building and transport fuels will be covered by emissions trading, putting a price on pollution, stimulating cleaner fuel use, and re-investing in clean technologies.
Restoring nature and enabling biodiversity to thrive again offers a quick and cheap solution to absorb and store carbon. The EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 is a comprehensive long-term plan to protect nature and put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery, for the benefit of people, climate and the planet.
The strategy contains specific commitments and actions:
- enlarging the existing Natura 2000 areas, the EU-wide network of protected land and sea areas
- launching an EU nature restoration plan, including the first ever Nature Restoration Law currently under negotiation
- unlocking funding for biodiversity, to enable the necessary transformative change
- introducing measures to tackle the global biodiversity challenge
In particular, nature restoration plays an important role in limiting the progress of global warming by capturing and storing carbon, and in adapting to climate change, as well as in mitigating the impact of increasingly violent natural disasters such as floods, droughts and heat waves.
Additionally, the unsustainable use of natural resources, in particular the degradation and pollution of soils, is a major driver of the climate and biodiversity crises. To tackle this, the Commission proposed a Soil Monitoring Law, which will put the EU on a pathway to healthy soils by 2050, by gathering data on soil health and making it available to farmers and other soil managers.
Enhancing net carbon removals and boosting carbon sinks in the EU is paramount. The EU target for net carbon removals by natural sinks will increase to 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. Member States share responsibility for removing carbon from the atmosphere, they are responsible for caring for and expanding their carbon sinks to meet the new EU target.
Bioenergy contributes to the phase-out of fossil fuels and the decarbonisation of the EU economy. But it must be used sustainably. A strict, new criteria to avoid unsustainable forest harvesting and to protect areas of high-biodiversity value will be applied in line with the increased climate and biodiversity ambition.
The European Green Deal has already set a positive example and led major international partners to set their own target dates for climate neutrality.
With investment in renewable energy technologies, we are developing expertise and products that will also benefit the rest of the world.
With the shift to green transport, we are creating world leading companies which can serve a growing global market. By working with our international partners, we will reduce emissions together in maritime transport and aviation around the world.
At the UN’s COP28 Summit in Dubai in 2023, the EU pushed for substantially scaling up global climate ambition to keep the 1.5°C objective within reach, in line with the Paris Agreement. The EU has also secured agreement to accelerate the global transition away from fossil fuels and triple renewables and double energy efficiency this decade.
The EU, its Member States and the European Investment Bank are together the biggest contributor of public climate finance to developing economies, providing €28.5 billion in 2022.
Factsheets on Delivering the European Green Deal
- General publications
A list of legal documents on Delivering the European Green Deal