European Union: The 2021 Climate Year in Review

European Union: The 2021 Climate Year in Review


  • Creation of European Climate Law
  • The European Commission’s Fit for 55 Package
  • The Next Generation EU Recovery Fund
  • National Recovery and Resilience Plans



2021 was a strong year for the EU regarding its revision of previous climate change policies and the strengthening of its commitment to reach goals that will help to mitigate the harmful impacts of climate change.

One particularly notable event was the EU’s creation of the European Climate Law, which entered into force in July 2021. The European Climate Law puts into law the goal for Europe’s economy and society to be climate neutral by 2050. Moreover, the European Climate Law sets an intermediate target of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. In order to achieve these goals, the European Climate Law sets a legally-binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which is notable in that it is the first time that Member States are legally bound to achieve climate goals. In order to track progress and ensure that Member States are indeed taking action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the European Climate Law includes measures that are meant to keep track of progress and allow the EU to adjust its strategies accordingly. Some of these measures include frequent reports on the status of Member States’ emissions by the European Environmental Agency and a governance process that will assess and aid Member States in achieving their national energy and climate plans. The European Climate Law also recognizes the need for the EU’s carbon sink to be enhanced through stronger Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry regulations and the need for stronger coherence in the Union’s climate policies.

Another step forward that the EU took came with its Fit for 55 package, which was introduced by the European Commission in mid-July this past year. The Fit for 55 package is a set of proposals that are meant to revise and update EU legislation and to put in place new initiatives that will aid the EU in reaching its goal of a 55% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2030. Some of the proposals in this package include a revision of the EU’s Emissions Trading System, a revision of the Member States’ effort sharing regulations and renewable energy directive, and a recast of the energy efficiency directive. These proposals should come together to help make the EU’s 2030 goal a reality by putting in place legislation that makes its emissions reduction goal achievable. However, the exact impact and how many of these proposals will be implemented is still uncertain given that the EU ministers who are debating the proposals have not yet reached a common agreement on what will be enforced.

A third critical step that the EU has undertaken to mitigate climate change is increasing the amount of funding that will go towards climate change. In early 2021, all Member States ratified the 750 billion Euro recovery fund called NextGenerationEU; at least 37% of its funds must be spent on climate action. In July 2021, the European Commission also approved the first National Recovery and Resilience Plans submitted by 12 Member States in which Member States outlined how they planned to spend the funds they are being granted by the EU, and 39% of these funds are set to be spent on climate change mitigation. This increase in funding will allow the aforementioned proposals and goals to more likely become a reality as more innovative solutions are financed and countries who may otherwise struggle to meet climate goals in the EU are given more support.

All of these propositions together should ideally contribute to a significant decrease in the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, even with these steps forward, Climate Action Tracker has found that the EU’s current policies, targets, and finance are not enough for the EU to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of achieving only 1.5°C of warming. In order to reach the Paris climate target, Climate Action Tracker suggests that the EU should strengthen its emissions reduction target to 62% by 2030 instead of its current goal of 55%. For this more ambitious goal to be reached, more efficient and time-sensitive action will need to be taken by Member States to reduce their emissions and stronger regulations reducing emissions will need to be enforced by the EU, preferably in a legally-binding way.

Learn More Resources

“EU.” Climate Action Tracker, 15 Sept. 2021,

“European Climate Law.” Climate Action,

“Fit for 55.” Consilium, 3 Dec. 2021,

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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard European Union Manager Brittany Demogenes


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