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'It's all smoke' - eagerly awaited EU climate law fails to impress protesters

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‘Too little’: Saoi O’Connor has criticised the EU for lack of ambition. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/ Provision

‘Too little’: Saoi O’Connor has criticised the EU for lack of ambition. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/ Provision

‘Too little’: Saoi O’Connor has criticised the EU for lack of ambition. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/ Provision

Climate campaigners are pleading with EU leaders to go back to the drawing board after their much-trumpeted climate law was declared a big disappointment.

The law, drawn up to give effect to the European Green Deal policy on carbon reduction, formalises the 2050 target for carbon neutrality and makes the target binding on all member states.

But critics say it is too soft in setting the interim targets needed to push members to achieve the annual reductions required to get them to 2050.

Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe said: "The most disappointing aspect of the climate law is it locks us into more than a decade of low ambition on emissions reduction.

"The mechanism to allow the Commission to ramp up targets every five years will not come into effect until 2030."

Under the law, which has to be passed by the European Parliament, the Commission will produce in September a plan to increase the EU's 2030 carbon reduction target from 40pc where it currently stands to between 50pc and 55pc.

There are two problems with this approach, says Catherine Devitt of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

"They need to establish the target by June. The delay means there will be very little time for member states to agree the target in time for COP26 in November when Europe really needs to be seen to take a lead on this," she said.

COP26 is the next big UN climate conference which is widely seen as the last chance for the world to make a meaningful attempt at adopting actions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

"The other issue is that they are still looking at a target of 50-55pc which is no longer aligned with the science nor with the Paris Agreement. We need to be looking at 65pc."

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who met with EU officials yesterday and later addressed MEPs, said the law amounted to "surrender".

She was one of 34 young climate activists and school strikers, including Ireland's Saoi O'Connor, who signed an open letter to EU leaders telling them that any law that did not reflect the science would do more harm than good.

"Such a law sends a strong signal that real, sufficient action is being taken when in fact it's not," they wrote. "We are in a crisis that has never once been treated as a crisis."

The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition expressed particular disappointment that Ireland was not among 12 member states that signed a letter to the Commission calling for a more ambitious approach.

Ms Devitt said it was not too late for Ireland to take that stand as European environment ministers meet in Brussels today to consider a range of issues, including climate change.

"We have sent a letter to Minister Bruton calling on Ireland to unequivocally show its support for higher ambition," she said.

Richard Bruton's department said in a statement the Government supported the ambition of carbon neutrality. "We will engage constructively in discussions on the proposal over the coming months."

Irish Independent