The European Union has unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat climate change. They claim that they want to ensure the well-being of their children and grandchildren as well as their own.
Members of the European Commission established 1990 as the starting point. They want to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030.
The European Union unveiled sweeping new legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% this decade, with the goal of translating green goals into concrete action and setting an example for the world’s other major economies to follow.
Their roadmap includes a proposal to prohibit the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles beginning in 2035. They want drivers to buy zero-emission electric vehicles.
Automobile manufacturers claimed that a ban on combustion engines would be unjust. They claimed that poorer countries lack the resources and infrastructure to support electric vehicles.
The European Union also intends to levy taxes on countries that import steel, cement, and other products that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Commission’s proposals range from a de facto phase-out of gasoline and diesel cars by 2035 to new national limits on gases emitted by heating buildings.
According to commission officials, the goal of the “Fit for 55” legislation is to wean the continent off fossil fuels and take better care of the environment through policy design – rather than being forced into desperate measures at a future climatic tipping point when it is all but too late.
“The infernos and hurricanes that we have seen in recent weeks are only a very small window into what our future could look like,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.
“However, by acting now, while we still have policy options, we can do things differently… Europe was the first continent to declare its intention to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, and we are now the first to present a concrete road map.”
‘Wars over water and food’
According to European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, failing to act now would “fail our children and grandchildren, who, in my opinion, will be fighting wars over water and food if we don’t fix this.”
The plan includes a revamp of the EU’s emissions trading scheme, under which companies pay for the carbon dioxide they emit, as well as the first-ever taxation of shipping and aviation fuels.
The commission intends to capitalize on the public mood for change created by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is already directing more than one-third of a massive recovery package aimed at reviving European economies devastated by coronavirus restrictions toward climate-related objectives.
The new legislation will include about a dozen major proposals, the majority of which will build on laws already in place to meet the EU’s old goal of a 40% reduction in gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and will need to be approved by the EU’s 27 member countries and EU politicians.
Six years ago, world leaders agreed in Paris to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
Scientists predict that unless drastic steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, both goals will be missed by a wide margin.
“The principle is simple – CO2 emissions must be priced, a price on CO2 that incentivizes consumers, producers, and innovators to choose clean technologies, to move toward clean and sustainable products,” von der Leyen explained.
Given the implications, the proposals will almost certainly face intense lobbying from industry and environmental groups as they move through the legislative process over the next year or so.
The plan will also face opposition due to the disparities in energy mixes among member countries, which range from coal-dependent Poland to nuclear-dependent France.
One of the most contentious aspects is a proposal for a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.” It will levy duties on foreign companies, raising the cost of certain goods, most notably steel, aluminum, concrete, and fertilizer.
The goal is to relieve pressure on European producers who have reduced emissions but are struggling to compete with importers who do not face the same environmental constraints.
The question is how the EU, which is known for its staunch support for open trade, will ensure that the carbon tax complies with World Trade Organization rules and is not perceived as a protectionist measure.
Another source of concern is the need to assist those who are likely to be impacted by rising energy prices, and the commission is proposing to establish a “social climate fund” worth several billion euros to assist those who may be hardest hit.
“This fund will support income and investments to combat energy poverty and reduce bills for vulnerable households and small businesses,” von der Leyen said.
Many people will most likely be unable to afford zero-emission vehicles after 2035. Fit for 55 is expected to result in a significant increase in sales of battery-powered vehicles, as the EU aims for a 100 percent reduction in C02 emissions from automobiles.
The new measures will begin to take effect in the coming years, with a 55% reduction in average fleet carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 compared to 2021.
The Fit for 55 measures will need to be approved by member states and the European Parliament, which could take up to two years.
According to a diplomat from one EU country, the package’s success will be determined by its ability to be realistic and socially fair while not destabilizing the economy.
“The goal is to take the economy to a new level, not to halt it,” the diplomat explained.