Europe Plans Aggressive New Laws to Phase Out Fossil Fuels
European officials are preparing to introduce ambitious legislation designed to wean one of the world’s largest and most polluting economies from fossil fuels much faster than other countries have pledged to do. The proposals could include phasing out coal as a source of electricity as well as imposing tariffs on polluting imports – an idea that could spark global trade disputes.
The package of a dozen legislative proposals from the European Commission, expected on Wednesday, aims to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve an ambitious climate target, already enshrined in law: the bloc of 27 countries has announced that it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
The legislation is expected to contrast sharply with the vague aspirations of various other countries to neutralize their emissions by the middle of the century. “It’s not just a big promise,” said Jennifer Tollmann, Berlin-based analyst for E3G, a research and advocacy group that works on climate policy.
The proposals, known as “Fit for 55,” are just that – proposals. They will take many months to negotiate between the 27 member countries and the European Parliament before becoming law. And they will most certainly invite a close examination of Europe’s own dependence on the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels in its own territories, from drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea to the extraction of coal in countries like Germany and Poland.
The most controversial element is what is called a border carbon adjustment tax. It would impose tariffs on greenhouse gas emissions associated with products imported from outside the European Union and, in effect, protect European companies from products made in countries with less stringent climate policies. Among the products it could target, according to a project disclosed in June, are steel, cement, iron and fertilizers.
This carbon border tax could not only undermine global trade and spark a dispute over protectionism within the World Trade Organization, but could also create new diplomatic fault lines ahead of international climate talks to be held in Glasgow in November.
The rally in Glasgow is an important time for major emitters to show what they will do to tackle the greenhouse gas emissions that have put the world on a dangerous warming path. Scientists have said the world as a whole needs to cut emissions in half by 2030, forcing the biggest polluters in history – the United States and Europe – to make the biggest reductions. important and fastest.
All eyes are on the targets set by the United States and China, which currently produce the largest share of greenhouse gases, and, more importantly, how they will achieve them.
China and India have publicly criticized the idea of a border carbon tax. Japan is not enthusiastic. And the United States has only said that it is evaluating the idea of its own border carbon tax.
It is still unclear exactly which products the tax would target. The United States, for example, is particularly concerned about the potential effect on steel produced in the United States, and it remains to be seen whether the proposed border tax would take into account the carbon emissions intensity of imported steel.
The United States is in a delicate position regarding a future European border tax. The Biden administration is keen to re-establish transatlantic alliances, especially on climate change. And yet, without the prospect of carbon pricing legislation in the United States, many American companies could be vulnerable.
The Biden administration has dangled the prospect of a border carbon tax, though its prospects are likely dim in a divided Congress. “It is certainly not excluded from the discussions,” White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy said on Tuesday at a conference hosted by Bloomberg. “There are many ways to view a carbon frontier adjustment as an opportunity here. “
Other aspects of the legislative package are likely to be controversial even within the European bloc of 27 countries. Efforts to phase out sales of new cars with internal combustion engines, for example, are likely to meet objections from some European car makers. (Bloomberg reported this week that France was opposing a proposal to ban sales of new gas-powered cars in 2035.) Efforts to phase out coal from power generation are likely to meet opposition from countries with large coal mines, such as Poland and Hungary.
The timing of the EU bill is critical, designed to highlight Europe’s stance on advancing climate policies and put pressure on other major emitters, including China and the United States.
“This will be the first attempt to say that these are not just numbers that we are committed to, but that we have a set of policies, very specific policies,” said Laurence Tubiana, director of the European Climate Foundation. and France’s former chief climate negotiator in the UN climate talks, said in an emailed statement.
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