EU leaders and Parliament's negotiators on Wednesday reached an agreement to set into law the bloc's objectives to be carbon-neutral by 2050 and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent compared to 1990s level.
"We are very happy with the provisional deal reached today," Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes, Minister of Environment and Climate Action for Portugal, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement.
"The European climate law is the "law of laws" that sets the frame for the EU's climate-related legislation for the 30 years to come," he added.
The European Climate Law now needs to be rubber-stamped by the Parliament and Council to come into force.
The Greens/EFA group in the Parliament said however that the deal lacks ambition and "risks undermining the European Green Deal.
'Our binding pledge to our children'
Frans Timmermans, the Commission's Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal welcomed the announcement as a "landmark moment for the EU".
"This is a good day for people and the planet," he added.
The announcement in the early morning comes on the eve of an international climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden.
Brussels unveiled its European Green Deal in December 2019 and tabled its proposal for a European Climate Law in March 2020. It aims for the bloc to become the world's first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 by unlocking billions of euros to help industries become more resource-efficient.
But EU Leaders and parliament had been at logger-head for months over the emissions reduction target with lawmakers pushing for a cut of at least 60 per cent — the 27-member bloc had previously committed to reducing its emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
The deal struck on Wednesday also includes a process for setting a 2040 climate target.
Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen "warmly" welcomed the agreement, adding that "our political commitment to becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 is now a legal one."
Pascal Canfin, chair of the Environment committee of the European parliament, also welcomed the deal, stressing that the parliament "was ready to go for more, but it's a good compromise."
"The EU will do 2.5 times more until 2030 as it has done in the last 10 years," he added.
Parliament's largest group, the European People's Party (EPP) described today's agreement as "historic".
"55 per cent is a very ambitious target. To say it is not overlooks the reality. In the last 30 years, we have reduced 25 per cent of greenhouse gases. Now, we have to save an additional 30 per cent in the next nine years. This is a huge task that no one should underestimate," EPP member Peter Liese said in a statement.
The German MEP, who also sits on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, deplored however that the "Council was not ready to accept climate neutrality for every member state. It will remain a collective target."
'EU is weak global partner'
The Greens/EFA group was much less congratulatory, describing the targets as "weak" and stating that they "risk undermining the European Green Deal".
"The blockade against ambitious targets by the majority of EU governments undermines the fight against climate change and makes the European Union a weak global partner," Green MEP Bas Eickhout said.
His colleague Michael Bloss also argued that "with this 2030 climate target, the EU is not doing enough to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement."
According to the group, the 55 per cent target "equates to only 52.8 per cent of direct emissions reductions when excluding carbon sinks." The Greens/EFA had been calling for a 65 per cent cut, which they say is in line with scientists' recommendations.