Crunch time for EU climate action

Climate action| Global transition

After a year marked by unprecedented public mobilisation for increased climate action, the UN Climate Summit COP25 coinciding with the December European Council and the start of the new European Commission’s mandate, offer a key opportunity to step up EU action on the climate crisis.

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Thanks to millions of people taking to the streets, repeated calls from climate scientists and a wave of climate litigation aimed to hold governments accountable for their inaction, many EU leaders have finally acknowledged the urgent need to scale up EU action to tackle the climate crisis. The European Parliament, the new European Commission, and an increasing number of EU governments support raising the EU’s 2030 climate target to 55% emissions cuts compared to 1990 levels.

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:

“The Madrid summit needs to set out the pathway for 2020, the year when countries need to deliver more ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For the EU, COP25 is an opportunity to regain the leadership role by committing to increase its 2030 climate target already in early 2020. Bringing the EU target in line with the Paris Agreement objective to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C will require reducing emissions by at least 65% by 2030.”

Numerous events happening in parallel to the COP will rise pressure on EU Ministers attending the summit to speak out in favour of the EU 2030 target increase in early 2020:

  • In its COP 25 resolution to be adopted this week, the European Parliament is expected to reaffirm its support for raising the EU’s 2030 climate target to 55% emissions cuts in early 2020. Several political groups are supporting 65% and higher emission reductions for 2030.

  • The agreement on the net-zero by 2050 target expected at the European Council on 12-13 December should pave the way for a Heads of State and Government discussion on the increase of the 2030 target.

  • The European Commission is expected to present a Communication on the European Green Deal before the Environment Council of 19 December. This Communication could be combined (or even preceded) by a Commission proposal on the Just Transition Fund.

Other issues the EU needs to tackle at the COP:

The only issue of the Paris rulebook that was not concluded last year in Katowice were the rules that govern global carbon markets (Article 6). It is important that the EU ensures that any possible outcome in Madrid over carbon market rules ensures environmental integrity. This means avoiding double counting, not allowing carry over of units from the Kyoto Protocol, and implementing social and environmental safeguards.

Countries at the UNFCCC have so far failed to agree on the length of the implementation period for post-2030 climate targets. The EU has not yet managed to agree on its own position on this. It should support 5-year commitment periods, which would be in line with the Paris Agreement’s 5-year ambition mechanism and help avoid lock-in of low ambition.

Governments must review the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damage to make it fully operational. Progress on finance for loss and damage, separate and in addition to finance for adaptation, must be at the centre of high-level discussions and the COP and at all upcoming political and climate summits. 

The Green Climate Fund replenishment this year collected US$9.7 billion, with a number of European countries offering good contributions. More European countries need to come forward to make pledges to the Green Climate Fund replenishment, and Switzerland, Belgium, Austria and Portugal need to top-up their contribution to deliver their fair share. 

European countries must also play their part in ensuring the goal to provide $100billion in climate finance annually is met from 2020, starting by outlining how this will be achieved. Discussions will also start on a new long term finance goal from 2025. It is crucial that the importance of adaptation and grants-based finance is emphasised.

Calendar of key events:

  • 26 November: UN Environment 2019 Emissions Gap Report

  • 27-28 November: European Parliament plenary votes on the new Commission and the COP25 resolution

  • 29 November – Global Climate Strike

  • 1 December – start of new European Commission

  • 2-13 December – the UN Climate Summit COP25 in Madrid 

  • 2 December – Heads of State and Government session at the COP (1st part of the COP25 High-Level Segment)

  • 6 December – solidarity marches in Madrid and Santiago

  • 7-13 December – alternative climate summits in Madrid and Santiago

  • 10-11 December – 2nd part of the COP 25 High-Level Segment

  • 12-13 December – European Council discussion on EU target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050

  • Before 19 Dec: Communication on the European Green Deal and on the Just Transition Fund by the European Commission

  • 19 December – Environment Council


Goksen Sahin, CAN Europe Communication Coordinator,, +32 468 45 39 20 (at the COP in Madrid during 2nd week)

Wendel Trio, CAN Europe Director,, +32 2894 4677 (at the COP in Madrid during 2nd week)

Ulriikka Aarnio in Brussels, International Climate Policy Coordinator,

+32 2894 4674 (at the COP in Madrid for both weeks)

Rachel Simon, Climate and Development Policy Coordinator,, +32 2893 0950 (at the COP in Madrid for both weeks)

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 160 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 47 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.