The European Union announced on Wednesday (14) a vast plan to try to reduce the pollution generated on the continent and thus contain global warming. The proposals call for an increase in the use of clean energies, such as solar and wind power, encourage the development of electric cars and veto the manufacture of combustion cars until 2035, among other measures.
The changes have yet to be approved by the bloc’s parliament and by the European Council (which brings together the heads of state or government of the countries), which will require agreements between the 27 member countries and with European industry. On some issues, consensus will also be needed with trading partners in other parts of the world.
The package was called “Fit to 55” (adapted to 55%). “We have the target, and now we present the map of how we will get there,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission (the executive of the bloc). The implementation of the measures is expected to cost around 500 billion euros (3,000 billion reais).
The main goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, based on 1990 levels, so that countries move closer to the ultimate goal of achieving neutrality carbon (that all emissions are absorbed in one way or another). Pollution reduction is expected to curb global warming, a goal adopted by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
For comparison, the United States has pledged to reduce its emissions by 40 to 43% over the same period. China, for its part, has only committed to stop increasing its production of pollutants before 2030, and then to start reducing them.
The 27 countries of the European bloc only emit around 8% of global carbon emissions. In addition to reducing pollution, the EU wants to encourage the creation of new clean energy technologies, which can bring economic benefits. “In terms of the direction Europe is taking, it could be of the same nature as the common market or the euro,” said Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the European Commission, citing the bloc’s single currency.
One of the main proposals announced on Wednesday is an evolution of the European carbon market, in which the biggest pollutants generators pay directly for it. The EU has proposed that 310 million tonnes of CO2 be absorbed each year, and that this target be distributed among its member countries. And he wants the goals to be passed as a form of law, starting in 2026.
The plan is to use new monitoring technologies, such as ground sensors and satellites, to track emissions and meet targets. Currently, the forests and other preserved natural areas of the block absorb 268 million tonnes of CO2 per year. However, carbon is released into the atmosphere if trees are felled or burned. In total, the EU emits 4 billion tonnes of CO2 per year from activities such as industry, transport and energy production.
Another point proposed is the adoption of additional import taxes for non-block products produced without taking into account environmental rules. With this, it is expected to reduce competition with items that cost less because they are made in a more polluting way. This tax would be phased in from 2023, but it has not been well received by countries negotiating with Europe, such as the USA, and can be challenged at the WTO (World Trade Organization).
There are doubts whether there is a consensus to approve the proposals, which the poorest EU countries, which are more dependent on fossil fuels and polluting industries, must resist. Banning cheaper diesel and gasoline cars could irritate low-income Europeans, even in rich countries. In 2018, a proposal from France to create a tax on polluting fuels sparked a series of protests that pushed thousands of people onto the streets for weeks and became known as the yellow vests movement. The government withdrew the measure after the protests.