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EU unveils ambitious climate package as it cools on fossil fuels


The package of measures looks to fundamentally transform the world’s single largest trading bloc. It touches on almost every area of economic activity — from how citizens heat their homes and commute, to a total upheaval of manufacturing practices.

The EU last month enshrined in law its target to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, but on Wednesday unveiled the aggressive 10-step program, titled “Fit for 55,” which is a roadmap for how it will achieve its reduction.

At a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Europe had become the first continent with “a comprehensive architecture” to meet its climate ambitions.

“We have the goal, but now we present the roadmap to how we are going to get there,” she said.

“We know, for example, our current fossil fuel economy has reached its limits. And we know we have to move on to new model one that is powered by innovation, that has clean energy that is moving toward a circular economy.”

While the package is bold, climate activists have criticized the 55% target for not being strong enough to prevent global temperatures from rising to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which scientists say is necessary to stave off more severe impacts of climate change.

The European Union accounts for around 8% of the world’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Containing rising temperatures will need firm action from bigger economies, including the US and China, the world’s two biggest carbon emitters.

The plan is also unlikely to be implemented in the way that von der Leyen and her fellow commissioners have envisioned. First, it must go through the EU’s exhaustive legislative process, which could take many months, even years. It will need to be read, amended and approved by both lawmakers in the EU Parliament and the EU Council, the forum in which the elected leaders of each member state debate such matters.

What else is in the roadmap?

The plans — which form part of von der Leyen’s broader Green Deal, a key plank of her Commission’s 2019-2024 agenda — takes particular aim at transport, both personal and commercial, across the block.

Von der Leyen announced cars with combustion engines, for example, would not be produced within the bloc from 2035. Financial incentives would be offered to countries that replace traditional fuel with a sustainable alternative in aviation and maritime transportation.

The proposed carbon border would place tariffs on certain goods produced outside the bloc, depending on their carbon footprint, subjecting them to the same standards that already exist for goods produced within the EU.

The plans is to discourage EU companies from importing cheaper materials from places where environmental standards are lower. In the initial implementation, the sectors affected would include cement, iron and steel, aluminum, fertilizer and, crucially, electricity.

Minimum tax rate for petrol and gasoline fuels would be increased by significant margins, as would tax on kerosene.

Another key pillar of Wednesday’s package is a lowering of the cap in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), the world’s first and largest carbon market.

Created in 2005, the ETS works by placing a cap on the carbon emissions companies within the EU are allowed to produce each year. If a company goes over, they are fined. They can also buy “allowances” from others in the ETS, roll over unused allowances. Over time, the cap set by the ETS goes down across the entire carbon market.

Presenting the package, von der Leyen said that these measures, which would cost €500bn “at the Europe level alone” would also create financial “incentives for the private sector, so that they complement” the EU’s overall ambition.

Is it realistic?

There is…



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