STRASBOURG – French President Emmanuel Macron said it is “essential” for the Europe Union to increase the bloc’s “climate and energy sovereignty.”

“We must quickly open up the debate to increase the European contribution to implementing the Paris Agreement,” Macron said in his opening speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on April 17, winning the applause of the MEPs in the chamber.

“We’re completing the discussions on the Energy and Climate Package, but it is clear that we must move on to a new phase that is committed to this and I hope that in a few months we will reopen the debate on a flat rate or a price for carbon,” Macron told the packed plenary session.

“France is in favour of a minimum price and a CO2 border tax, as well. It is not a technical instrument; it’s the way to ensure to ensure a credible energy transition,” Macron said.

Macron stressed that the European model is embodied in the EU’s commitment to protecting the environment, climate, and health. He noted, however, that while Europe shares a lot with the United States and is one of its closest allies, the US under Donald J. Trump “is rejecting multilateralism, free trade, and climate change.”

Macron wrapped up his debate at the European Parliament just before MEPs adopted two draft laws aiming to significantly cut C02 emissions. According to the MEPs, CO2 emitted by transport, farming, buildings, and waste must be cut by 30% across the EU. CO2 emitted and absorbed by forestry and land use must balance out by 2030.

The MEPs stressed that the EU’s targets will be turned into binding national targets for sectors which are not covered by the current EU Emissions Trading Scheme, including agriculture, transport, building and waste, which together account for about 60% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.

These cuts will contribute to meeting the EU’s overall collective pledge, under the Paris Agreement on climate change, to deliver a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors from 1990 levels.

Dutch MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, who is steering the legislation through the European Parliament as rapporteur, said MEPs have done their best to agree on an ambitious European climate action regulation, despite the attempt of many EU governments to undermine the goal

“Thanks to pressure from the Parliament, we have succeeded in lowering the allowed carbon budget with the emissions of about four million cars. European governments will have to do more, however, and they will have to do it earlier,” Gerbrandy said, stressing that delaying climate action is no longer possible.

“This regulation requires all governments to speed up green investments to tackle emissions from agriculture, transport, waste, and buildings,” he said, adding that this regulation is also designed to increase European climate ambition over time. “I am especially looking forward to the long-term climate strategy that the European Commission is currently preparing. If we want to reach a zero-emissions economy by 2050, we need to speed up the transition in all of the Member States and the economic sector,” the Dutch MEP said.

While in Strasbourg, the MEPs also adopted a separate law aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from land-use and forestry and boost the level of emissions absorbed by forests as a way to tackle climate change. EU forests absorb the equivalent of nearly 10% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions each year.

The proposed law would lay down rules under which EU countries have to ensure that deforestation is balanced by planting new trees, and sets measures to develop the sector in order to boost CO2 absorption by forests, croplands, and grasslands. The European parliamentarians bolstered these provisions by adding that the Member States should boost CO2 absorption to exceed emissions in line with the EU’s long-term objectives and the Paris Agreement.

The UN’s definition of land use, land-use change, and forestry is about the positive contribution of agriculture and forestry to combat climate change, said rapporteur Norbert Lins, an MEP from Germany. “I am convinced that we have succeeded in strengthening the bio-economy – wood for house building, furniture, and bioenergy,” he said. “With this legislation, we are sending out a signal that we want our forests in Europe to continue to be managed sustainably. We want to continue to maintain strong forestry in Europe.”

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