On 11 December 2020, the European Council agreed on the European Commission's proposal to raise the EU's collective greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030 to -55% compared to 1990. The more ambitious climate target for 2030, which is to be understood as an intermediate step on the way to the realisation of the Green Deal by 2050, is to be legally anchored in the European Climate Law in the next step; the European Parliament called for the climate target to be raised to -60%. After the end of the reporting period, an agreement was reached on the value -55 %.

In order to implement the EU's new, very ambitious climate target by 2030, the EU Commission will present a series of legislative proposals in 2021 to adapt the existing EU climate and energy legislation. The proposals mainly concern the revision of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the Effort Sharing Regulation for sectors not covered by emissions trading, and measures to increase the share of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency. In this context, a significant increase in the respective targets and level of ambition in the various revised guidelines can be expected.

Following the adoption of the EU Drinking Water Directive by the European Parliament on 15 December 2020, the next step will be its transposition into national law. The central components of the new directive are securing access to drinking water for EU citizens, adapting quality standards for drinking water and improving information on drinking water for consumers.

The European Commission launched a public consultation on 11 January 2021 to develop legally binding EU targets for biodiversity restoration and species conservation. A proposal for a regulation to implement the biodiversity targets is expected to be presented by the European Commission in the last quarter of 2021.

The Fuel Emissions Trading Act came into force in Germany on 1 January 2021. According to this law, the price for suppliers of diesel, petrol, heating oil or natural gas is EUR 25 per tonne of CO2 emitted by these energy sources. This price will be gradually increased to EUR 55/t CO2 in 2025.

The “Renewable Energy Expansion Act” package, which has been under discussion in Austria for some time, was subjected to a review in September 2020. Due to the large number of comments to be incorporated and because clarifications under state aid law were necessary for some topics, it proved impossible to keep to the original schedule. Due to the urgent need for action on the topic of “grid reserve management”, a separate legislative resolution was initiated. The corresponding regulations, which improve planning security for operators of thermal power plants, were published on 7 January 2021 in Federal Law Gazette (BGBl.) I No. 17/2021.

For the remaining parts of the comprehensive legislative package, a Council of Ministers decision on the government bill was taken on 17 March 2021. Central elements in the Renewable Energy Expansion Act package are the redesign of the subsidy system through a market bonus and the direct marketing of electricity produced from renewable sources. Furthermore, a low-threshold opportunity for founding energy communities is intended to ensure decentralisation of the energy supply and more local acceptance. Grid access for renewable energy generation plants is simplified by flat rates in the Electricity Industry and Organisation Act (ElWOG). Evaluations in this regard by the end of 2025 are intended to ensure fair allocation of the costs among grid users. Permit exemptions from high-voltage wayleave legislation for the replacement of medium-voltage overhead lines with underground cable will lead to lifting of bureaucracy and to simplification in line construction.

The political agreement due to the required 2/3 majority in parliament, the notifications under state aid law and the legislative implementation of renewable gas are still outstanding. Formulations relating to quotas, the phase-out of fossil gas or regulations for grid expansion and densification will follow in a separate package.