Brussels to unveil historic plan to reduce Europe’s carbon footprint
Brussels will present plans on Wednesday for the EU to become the first global player to achieve net zero emissions in order to limit global warming, with a decarbonization strategy targeting all sectors of the economy and international trade.
The European Commission will unveil 13 policies as part of its ‘Fit for 55’ package – designed to tackle climate change by ensuring the continent meets its target of reducing average greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and net zero by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
The plan, dubbed the EU’s “man on the moon moment” by commission chair Ursula von der Leyen, risks a backlash from poorer EU countries and some industries that argue that the pace of change and increasing regulations will become a financial burden. The measures will also be under close scrutiny by the bloc’s trading partners, as their companies face sanctions on exports of carbon-intensive products such as steel and cement.
The centerpiece of the EU’s master plan is to expand the Emissions Trading System, a system that forces companies to pay the cost of pollution. Brussels wants to go further by including emissions from the automotive industry and the heating of buildings to accelerate the pace of decarbonization.
Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the commission in charge of green policy, described the package as “arguably the greatest operation to transform living memory”. The US and UK will be following the unfolding of the EU’s plans closely as they attempt their own ambitious net zero emissions targets.
One of the most anticipated measures is an EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). This will force importers of steel, cement, aluminum and fertilizer to pay for the rising carbon costs facing European industry. The prospect of the tax has alarmed Russian businesses who say they will be hit the hardest.
Europe’s transport sector faces the biggest upheaval as Brussels seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of an industry whose emissions have been steadily increasing since 1990.
The automotive industry is expected to be included in the ETS, and new vehicles will be subject to more stringent CO2 reduction standards over the next 15 years. The commission’s targets will amount to a de facto ban on the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars by 2035, officials said. This will be accompanied by new rules to increase the availability of charging points and encourage the switch to electric cars.
Aviation and maritime transport will be penalized for pollution, with a tax on aviation and maritime fuels proposed for the first time. The shipping industry will also come under the expanded ETS to cover intra-EU journeys from 2023.
The commission hopes to stave off a political revolt over carbon pricing by offering financial support worth tens of billions of euros to help compensate households suffering from fuel poverty.
Brussels admits that extending the ETS will impact poorer households who spend more of their income on heating bills and cannot easily afford to switch to greener modes of transport.
The proposals have already met with opposition from some governments and members of the European Parliament who will need to approve the reforms for them to take effect.
Pascal Canfin, French MEP and chairman of the parliamentary committee on the environment, warned against the political consequences of “the mistake of extending the carbon market to heating and fuel”.
“We experienced it in France,” he said, referring to the populist revolt against planned oil increases in France in 2018. “It gave us the yellow vests (yellow vests). ”
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