- EU to unveil policy package with emissions target
- Focus on promoting greener choices for consumers and businesses
- Negotiations defined to expose differences between members
- Impact on industry, households saw restless resistance
BRUSSELS, July 12 (Reuters) – The European Union this week is set to take the lead in climate policy among the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, with a series of ambitious plans designed to dramatically reduce emissions over the next decade.
The policies, if approved, would put the bloc – the world’s third-largest economy – on track to meet its goal of reducing global warming emissions by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels.
The “Fit for 55” package released on Wednesday will still face months of negotiations between the 27 EU countries and the European Parliament.
Other major economies, including China and the United States – the world’s two largest emitters – have pledged to achieve net zero emissions, which scientists say the world needs to achieve by 2050 to avoid climate change catastrophic.
But the EU is the first to revise its legislation to drive greener choices during this decade among the 25 million companies in the bloc and nearly half a billion people.
“Everyone has a goal. But translating it into policies that lead to real emission reductions is the hard part,” said Jos Delbeke, a former politician who developed some of the flagship climate policies of the EU.
By 2019, the EU had reduced its emissions by 24% from 1990 levels. That leaves another 31% to meet the 55% target – and only nine years to do so.
The European Commission will propose 12 policies on Wednesday, targeting four areas: energy, industry, transport and heating of buildings. Read more
Emissions from the European electricity sector are declining rapidly, but other sectors are blocked.
Emissions from cars, planes and ships, which account for a quarter of the EU total, are increasing. Buildings produce a third of the block’s emissions and, like European factories, many homes use heat produced from fossil fuels.
Put simply, most of the draft measures will encourage businesses and consumers to choose greener options rather than polluting ones.
For example, a leaked draft of a proposal would tax polluting jet fuel for the first time and give low-carbon aviation fuels a 10-year tax holiday. An overhaul of the EU carbon market is also expected to increase CO2 costs for industry, power plants and airlines, and force ships to pay for their pollution. Read more
The list of proposals is long. Stricter European CO2 standards for cars could effectively ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars in 2035. EU countries will face more ambitious targets for developing renewable energy. Read more
Brussels will also unveil details of its world’s first carbon tariff, targeting imports of high-emission foreign-produced goods such as steel and cement. This has pissed off the EU’s trading partners, including Russia and China.
CLIMATE POLICIES ARE RETURNING HOME
The political road ahead is likely to be difficult, as EU countries and the European Parliament negotiate the proposals.
Already, the plans have revealed familiar divisions between the EU’s wealthiest western and northern states, where sales of electric vehicles are skyrocketing, and poorer eastern countries worried about the social cost. weaning from their coal savings. Read more
The capitals of EU members are particularly concerned about the Commission’s plan to launch a carbon market for transport and home heating, which could increase household fuel bills.
The Commission has pledged a social fund to protect low-income households from costs and urges countries to use the EU’s € 800 billion COVID-19 stimulus fund to help people insulate their homes and create jobs in clean technologies like hydrogen.
The unveiling of “Fit for 55” will make climate policies more visible than ever to EU citizens, testing the broad European public support for ambitious climate action.
“There is no doubt that this package comes in the midst of a massive socio-economic crisis,” said Manon Dufour of the independent climate change think tank E3G. The EU “must be even more attentive to social impacts”.
Policymakers are also prepared for a storm of industry lobbying. The European steel and cement sectors are already fighting against plans to remove free CO2 permits and forcing manufacturers to pay more when they pollute.
Past attempts to tighten CO2 standards for automakers have met stiff opposition from industry. But with European giants like Volkswagen already pledged to end sales of combustion-engine cars in Europe in the 2030s, some governments are saying now is the time to bring laggards into compliance.
“The Commission basically needs to wake up and smell the coffee – now is the time to anchor it in legislation,” said an EU diplomat, of the potential proposal to ban the sale of new cars combustion engine by 2035.
ADVANTAGES OF FIRST DISPLACEMENT (DICE)
With its first global package, the EU also aims to strengthen its position as world leader on climate. It’s unclear whether that will be enough, however, to spur equally ambitious action from other major economies at the UN climate conference in November in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The challenge is that other big players – China and the United States in particular – will have to be on board,” said Tom Rivett-Carnac, the UN’s chief political strategist ahead of the Accord. of Paris in 2015. “It remains to be seen whether the EU can achieve this diplomatically.”
Brussels says it’s time to make Europe’s climate policies global. Much of the necessary diplomatic lift will be on the carbon tariff, which the EU says will put its companies on a par with competitors from countries with weaker carbon policies.
The proposals would also push European industry to invest in expensive green technologies. Acting early could give European companies a competitive advantage in global markets for new products like low-carbon steel produced from green hydrogen, but producing these products will cost manufacturers more.
“At the end of this transformation, our economy will be much better and we will be able to control the climate crisis,” Frans Timmermans, the European commissioner in charge of climate policy, told CNN. “And that’s the whole point.”
(This story corrects the figure to 31% from 21% in paragraph 7)
Reporting by Kate Abnett Editing by John Chalmers, Katy Daigle and Helen Popper
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.