EU launches bold green revolution, proposes ban on new petrol cars by 2035

The EU went into battle on Wednesday to secure a path to its bold pledge of carbon neutrality by 2050, sparking an epic political clash over electric cars and fuel prices that could last for years.

Unveiled by the European Commission, the mammoth plan aims to transform the bloc’s economy from a fossil fuel dependency to a net-zero emissions world.

Brussels also hopes to establish Europe as the undisputed leader in meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

“Europe is now the very first continent to present a comprehensive architecture to meet our climate ambitions,” Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels.

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

The myriad proposals include an effective ban on the sale of new petrol-powered cars from 2035, one of the boldest moves against gas-guzzlers ever, and one that has already raised concerns in Paris and Berlin.

The proposals were announced by Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the Environment Council of the European Commission.

At the heart of the legislative package is the ambition to revive the EU’s flawed emissions trading system (ETS), the world’s largest carbon market, where industry pays for the right to pollute.

The laws will now work their way through the EU’s legislative system, amid heavy horse trading in the European Parliament and between the bloc’s 27 member states, spurred on by industry lobbyists and green activists.

“Each state will have to defend its interests because their situation is very different in terms of industry, geography, energy supply and investment capacity,” said a senior EU diplomat.

“Member States will see the ambition, see the effort needed to achieve it and have to decide whether there are no insurmountable problems,” the diplomat said.

The jockeying has already begun, with powerful interests fighting hard to get special treatment – or extra time – before the restrictions of a greener Europe take effect.

Environmentalists were quick to denounce the laws as not going far enough – with the European Environment Agency denouncing a plan that was “inappropriate and unfair” to fight climate change effectively.

A major fear is the resistance of the motoring public in a continent-wide repeat of the “yellow vest” protests that broke out in France when the government imposed a new fuel tax in the name of protecting the environment.

‘Fit for 55’

The legislative impulse is promoted as the “Fit for 55” package, as its central aim is to align existing EU laws and targets with a deeper net emissions reduction of 55 percent by 2030.

The previous target was a reduction of at least 40 percent from 1990.

Another pillar is a carbon tax paid by non-European companies on the bloc’s outer borders to ensure that dirtier imports don’t get an unfair advantage.

The levy will be called a “carbon border adjustment mechanism” and polluting companies importing goods into the EU will have to buy ETS carbon permits, a move likely to thwart EU trading partners such as Russia, China and India.

Last minute power struggle

To soften the blow, European rivals of the importers – industries such as steel, cement, aluminum, fertilizer and electric power – would phase out their existing free carbon permits.

Sources reported serious infighting at the European Commission as the proposals were finalized.

Particularly sensitive were measures to impose sustainable and probably more expensive fuels in public sectors such as transport, heating and cooling – as well as in construction.

“Given the social and economic consequences of this ‘mother of all laws’, its implementation risks turning into a painful ordeal with an uncertain outcome,” warned Belgian MEP Johan Van Overtveldt, a conservative.

Another major battle will come from airlines over a measure to tax jet fuel for intra-European flights. Tourist destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Greece will hope to refute the proposal.

Eastern Member States, such as Poland, in particular, which rely on coal, will oppose stricter emission reduction targets and ask for financial aid to change their way of working.

And environmentalists are unconvinced by plans to promote natural carbon sinks like forests and pastures, fearing an attempt to hide a lack of ambition to cut emissions at source.


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