The European Commission launches major climate plan to aid the European Green Deal

Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission has unveiled its climate plan, which aims to decarbonise the Continent by 2050.

Decarbonising the European Union, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and cutting emissions by 55 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, already by 2030. This is the great promise at the heart of the European Green Deal, which became legally binding with the Climate Law. How can it be achieved? The sweeping Climate Target Plan, presented on Wednesday, 14th July by the European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, aims to pave the way for this transition. The “fit for 55package, aimed at helping achieve the 55 per cent emissions cut by 2030 goal, contains 14 different legislative proposals that take on essentially every sector of the economic system, from fuels to forestry, from CO2 taxes to road transport and shipping. Following internal negotiations – which,  according to some press outlets, aren’t always easy – it will take more months of negotiations to get the green light from the 27 Member States and the European Parliament.

The main points of the climate plan

No more petrol and diesel cars by 2035

Of the Union’s total emissions today, 20.4 per cent comes from road transport, 4 per cent from shipping, and 3.8 per cent from aviation. Overall, these emissions must be cut by 90 per cent before 2050. Over the next nine years, new cars must emit 55 per cent less greenhouse gas, and new vans 50 per cent less. The target for 2035 is set at zero. Essentially, this means that selling new petrol or diesel cars will become impossible. Building a capillary network of charging stations for electric and hydrogen vehicles will be crucial; the EU’s documents set a minimum density.

The ETS EU emissions trading system will also come into play, having been created to impose a price on pollution and thus encourage the green transition. So far, it has only applied to 10,000 power plants and industrial facilities, and to airlines that connect the Union’s Member States. Starting in 2026, it will also apply to road transport.

A carbon tax for flights

According to the most credible estimates, the aviation sector could emit 56 gigatonnes of CO2 globally between 2016-2050. This is equivalent to burning through one-quarter of our carbon budget. Despite this, it has thus far always been exempted from eco-taxation, except for some measures introduced voluntarily by individual countries (like France’s eco-tax on airline tickets). In light of the Commission’s climate plan, things will soon change. The idea is to set a price for CO2 and gradually transition towards sustainable fuel mixtures for all flights departing EU airports.

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The aeroplane is the most polluting means of transport, emitting enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. It’s estimated that a train journey generates 15 grams of CO2 per kilometre, compared to 100 grams for flying © Getty Images

The carbon border adjustment mechanism

One of the pillars of the Commission’s climate plan is the so-called carbon border adjustment mechanism. The idea is to incorporate the price of manufacturing emissions in the price of imported products. Thus, the Union wards off unfair competition by countries that have less stringent climate regulations, and discourages European companies from delocalising their production.

Renovating buildings is vital

For some time now, the Commission has advocated for a “renovation wave“. After all, three out of four buildings are not energy-efficient, and 85-90 per cent will still be in use in 2050 – when net emissions must be brought to zero. The climate plan wants to make member states renovate at least 3 per cent of public buildings, in terms of surface. Between now and 2030, the use of clean energy for heating and cooling must be increased by 1.1 per cent per year. Overall, renewables will have to cover 49 per cent of buildings’ power needs by 2030.

A Social Climate Fund so no one is left behind

Overall, the institutions point out, the European Green Deal will have a net benefit on the economy, creating one million jobs in the next nine years along, increasing to two million by 2050. Like all transitions, however, it will have a cost. Citizens and small businesses will have to change cars, renovate their living and working spaces, pay a higher price for fossil fuels. To support those who are at risk of encountering difficulties, a 72.2-billion-euro Social Climate Fund will be allocated for the 2025-2032 period.

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