The European Union has unveiled new expansive legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent this decade, with the goal of turning green targets into concrete action and setting an example for other major economies. of the world to follow.
The proposals by the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, range from the de facto elimination of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 to the new national gas limits by heating buildings.
The aim of the “Fit for 55” legislation, commission officials say, is to clean up the continent from fossil fuels and better care for the environment with policy-making – rather than being forced to take desperate measures at a future climatic point when it’s all but too late.
“The hells and hurricanes we have seen over the last few weeks are just a small window into what our future could be,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.
“But now that we have the political choices, we can do things differently … Europe was the first continent to declare climate neutral in 2050, and now we are the first to put a charter. of concrete road on the table ”.
“Wars over water and food”
The executive vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said, failing to act now, “we will fail our children and grandchildren, who, in my opinion, if we do not fix this, will be fighting for ‘water and food’.
The plan envisages a renewal of the block’s emissions trading scheme under which companies will pay for the carbon dioxide they emit and introduce taxes for shipping and aviation fuels for the first time.
The commission wants to exploit the public mood for the change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is already channeling more than a third of a massive recovery package aimed at reviving European economies devastated by coronavirus restrictions in climate-oriented targets.
The new legislation will involve about a dozen major proposals – most of them based on laws already in place to meet the EU’s old goal of a 40 per cent reduction in gas emissions by 2030 , compared to 1990 levels – and must be approved by all 27 EU member states and politicians.
World leaders agreed six years ago in Paris to keep the increase in global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7F) by the end of the century.
Scientists say both goals will be missed by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“The principle is simple – CO2 emissions must have a price, a price on CO2 that encourages consumers, producers and innovators to choose clean technologies, to move towards clean and sustainable products,” said von der Leyen .
Given the implications, the proposals are certainly subject to intense lobbying by industry and environmental groups as they go through the legislative process for at least next year.
The plan will also be faced with resistance due to the different energy mixes in the member countries, ranging from coal-dependent Poland to nuclear-dependent France.
Among the most controversial elements is a plan for a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism”. It will impose duties on foreign companies, thus increasing the price of certain goods – in particular steel, aluminum, concrete and fertilizer.
The aim is to alleviate the pressure on European producers to cut emissions but struggle to compete with importers who do not have the same environmental restrictions.
The question is how the EU – known for its strong defense of open trade – will ensure that the carbon tax respects the rules of the World Trade Organization and is not considered a protectionist measure.
Another concern is the need to help those who could be affected by rising energy prices, and the commission proposes to create a multi-billion euro “social climate fund” to help those who could. they are the most affected.
“This fund will support revenues and support investments to tackle energy poverty and to reduce bills for vulnerable families and small businesses,” von der Leyen said.
It is likely that many will not be able to pay for zero-emission cars after 2035. Under Fit for 55, a drastic acceleration in battery car sales is likely as the EU aims for a 100 per cent reduction. in automatic emissions of C02.
New measures will begin to bite in the next few years, with a 55 percent reduction in average carbon dioxide emissions in the fleet by 2030 compared to 2021.
The Fit for 55 measure will require approval from member states and the European parliament, a process that could take two years.
A diplomat from an EU country said the success of the package would depend on its ability to be realistic and socially just, without establishing the economy.
“The goal is to take the economy to a new level, not to plant it,” the diplomat said.