European Union leaders on Wednesday introduced the bloc’s most comprehensive plans yet to combat climate change, with a new goal of reducing carbon emissions to 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.
Unveiled by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, the legislation would make the bloc’s goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050 legally binding and completely overhaul its energy system.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a press conference that the “Fit for 55” plan would act as a road map of concrete actions necessary to achieve the bloc’s climate goals.
“Our package aims to combine the reduction of emissions with measures to preserve nature, and to put jobs and social balance at the heart of this transformation,” von der Leyen said.
The sweeping proposal would involve every sector of the EU’s economy in its Emissions Trading System, which incentivizes companies to lower their emissions by taxing the carbon they produce.
New taxes on previously exempt sectors are proposed for aviation and shipping fuels. The plan also calls for increasing existing carbon taxes to the transportation, manufacturing and power sectors.
One of the package’s most noteworthy aspects is a first-of-its-kind tax on the carbon produced by foreign imports, which in turn likely would raise prices for consumers.
This border tax — known officially as the carbon border adjustment mechanism — would ensure the EU is reducing emissions across the board, and it would protect domestic companies against price competition from foreign companies without the same environmental restrictions.
In April, environmental leaders from China, India, South Africa and Brazil spoke out against such a tax, asserting that a carbon border adjustment would be discriminatory against developing countries that lack the resources to focus on cutting emissions.
The commission also is planning to completely phase out the sale of combustion-engine cars by 2035, effectively bringing new car emissions to zero.
Other proposals include shifting millions of buildings in the EU toward renewable energy by 2030 via renovation and implementation of a carbon tax on road transport.
“Emission of CO2 must have a price, and we know that carbon pricing works,” von der Leyen said. “Our existing emission trading system has already helped significantly to reduce emissions in industry and in power generation.”
The commission emphasized a focus on making the transition to renewable energy fair and accessible to everyone, particularly low-income individuals and member states whose economies are more reliant on polluting industries.
Environmental taxes that target the individual have caused controversy in the past, as seen with the massive yellow vest movement in opposition to the French government's raising fuel taxes.
Since energy prices are expected to rise, the commission proposed creating a $85.2 billion fund that citizens of member states could access to help mitigate the costs of switching to energy-efficient housing and transportation.
The commission’s plan comes six years after the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement signaled a worldwide commitment to mitigating the impact of climate change and keeping global temperatures from increasing significantly.
Additionally, since the EU produces only 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, the plan is intended to push other world powers to follow suit and produce more concrete plans for reaching climate neutrality.
In coming years, the commission’s plan will be the subject of scrutiny and negotiation as the leaders from the 27 member states convene in the European Parliament and Council to implement the laws across the EU.