FILE PHOTO: Smoke and steam billow from the Belchatow Power Station, Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant, near Belchatow, Poland, November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
By Kate Abnett
Portugal will use its six-month presidency of the European Union to finalize a landmark law containing the bloc’s emissions-cutting targets, the country’s environment minister said on Wednesday.
The bill would make the EU’s climate targets irreversible, including its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and speed up emissions reductions this decade.
Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes told Reuters in an interview he hoped the law could be agreed by early April.
“Our main goal is to approve the climate law,” Matos Fernandes said. “This is definitely our top priority.”
However, “tough” negotiations are ahead, since EU institutions still do not see eye to eye, he said.
EU countries and the Commission want the law to include a target to cut net emissions at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, and say countries should collectively deliver the EU’s 2050 goal.
The European Parliament says tougher action is needed to address the climate emergency. It wants a 60% emissions cut this decade and a requirement for every EU country to become climate neutral by mid-century.
Brussels hopes the legal framework will help investors and businesses plan their transition and make much-needed green investments.
Portugal holds the rotating EU presidency from January-June, meaning it will represent EU countries in negotiations with the European Commission and European Parliament on new legislation, and chair meetings of EU ministers.
With climate change already stoking harsher heatwaves, drought and record-high temperatures in Europe, Matos Fernandes said he would also push for an agreement among member states by June on an EU plan to adapt to worsening climate impacts.
“In a country like Portugal, you can feel it, you can see it. We have to talk about adaptation,” he said.
The next six months will also see EU countries try to agree plans to renovate Europe’s buildings to save energy, and EU standards for green electric vehicle batteries.
Those are of key interest for Portugal, which has 60,000 tonnes of known reserves of the battery metal lithium.