The EU wants to radically reduce its CO2 emissions by 2030 – but how? Commission chief von der Leyen presents her plans. What is known is already causing discussion.
Munich – The new head of the commission had big plans. Less than half a year in office, Ursula von der Leyen presented her “Green Deal” at the end of 2019, the idea of making Europe climate-neutral and at the same time strengthening the economy. She spoke of a “man-on-the-moon moment”. Since then, the aforementioned has been sitting around there at a loss.
Because how to rebuild the economy of an entire continent in a climate-friendly way has remained open – until now. On Wednesday (July 14th) von der Leyen wants to explain how the EU intends to reduce CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. The plan, entitled “Fit for 55”, contains twelve legislative proposals. Much is still unclear in detail, but what is known is already causing discussion.
Climate protection in the European Union: emissions trading as a defining factor
According to media reports, the core of the project is a reform of the European emissions trading system (ETS). It was introduced in 2005, but so far only applies to energy producers, intra-European air traffic and industry, which together are responsible for around 40 percent of emissions. In order to emit CO2, they have to buy certificates, the price is currently 53 euros per ton. From 2026, according to the EU plan, there should be a second emissions trading system for the transport, construction and shipping sectors.
This would also increase the price of gasoline and heating oil. Eastern Europe in particular fears that this will be at the expense of the poor, who are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels for heating and transport. The climate network Réseau Action Climat therefore calls the EU proposal “dangerous”. The head of the Environment Committee in the EU Parliament, Pascal Cafin, warns: “The political costs would be extremely high and the benefits for the climate very low.” After the yellow vest protests, which were sparked by higher fuel prices, Paris is also skeptical.
However, the EU Commission wants to offset the additional costs elsewhere. As the Financial Times reports, the income from the new emissions trading should at least partially flow back through a social fund to the states, which could use the money to cushion social imbalances.
Climate change: Strict EU CO2 plans call industry lobby into action
Criticism also comes from the industry, which fears that CO2-intensive industries will migrate to areas where lower environmental regulations apply. So far, this has not happened because steel and cement manufacturers, for example, received free CO2 certificates, some of which they even resold at a profit. Now the free certificates are to expire by 2035. In order to protect affected companies from cheap competition, a CO2 border tax is to be introduced in return: imports of steel or cement from countries such as Russia or China would be more expensive. The governments there are already complaining about protectionism. In fact, it is questionable whether the EU subverts the rules of the World Trade Organization in this way.
The auto industry must also adjust to stricter goals. So far, it is planned that emissions will decrease by 37.5 percent by 2030 compared to 2021, the Commission plan is now speaking loudly FAZ of 60 percent. Zero emissions in the automotive sector should therefore be targeted in 2035 or 2040. It is true that the proposal is “technology-neutral” – the use of combustion engines with synthetic fuels is therefore not excluded. De facto, however, this should be a signal to switch entirely to electric. To support this, the EU wants to oblige the states to set up significantly more charging stations.
The “Fit for 55” plan also provides for the introduction of a kerosene tax for flights within Europe and the reduction of emissions in agriculture through afforestation. Associations such as Greenpeace consider the latter to be a sham and call for tougher measures overall. It is questionable whether the Commission proposals have a chance at all. The EU Parliament and the member states have the last word.