By Nneka Nwogwugwu
The European Union unveiled sweeping new legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent this decade, aiming to turn green goals into concrete action and set an example for the world’s other big economies to follow.
The proposals by the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, range from the de facto phasing out of gasoline and diesel cars by 2035 to new national limits on gases from heating buildings.
The aim of the “Fit for 55” legislation, commission officials said, is to wean the continent off fossil fuels and take better care of the environment by policy design – rather than be forced into desperate measures at a future climatic tipping point when it is all but too late.
“The infernos and hurricanes we have seen over the last few weeks are only a very small window into what our future could look like,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.
“But by acting now, when we still have the policy choices, we can do things another way … Europe was the first continent to declare to be climate neutral in 2050, and now we are the very first ones to put a concrete road map on the table.”
European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said by failing to act now, “we would fail our children and grandchildren, who in my view, if we don’t fix this, will be fighting wars over water and food”.
The plan involves a revamp of the bloc’s emissions trading scheme under which companies pay for carbon dioxide they emit and introduces taxes on shipping and aviation fuels for the first time.
The commission wants to exploit the public mood for change provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is already channelling more than one-third of a massive recovery package aimed at reviving European economies ravaged by coronavirus restrictions into climate-oriented goals.