• European Commission releases ‘Fit For 55’ proposal to meet 2030 GHG reduction targets

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The European Commission has released its ‘Fit For 55’ proposal for achieving the agreed EU goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels. As a proposal it will require agreement between members states, which as the BBC reports may take months of negotiations to come to, having already triggered some infighting between different EC departments. The EC, however, is determined to get the package through, with President Ursula von der Leyen stating that it is “our generational task… [to secure] the wellbeing of not only our generation, but of our children and grandchildren.” Head of climate policy Frans Timmermans adopted an approach of trying to ready EU citizens and industry for the magnitude of the changes required, saying that “We’re going to ask a lot of our citizens, [and also] a lot of our industries, but we do it for good cause. We do it to give humanity a fighting chance.” Not all of the parts of the proposal directly affect the combustion industry, but many do. Amongst them are:

  • A carbon border tariff, aimed at protecting European heavy industry, which will initially be applied only to steel, cement, aluminium and fertilisers, starting 2023.
  • A more ambitious target for the deployment of renewable energies – raising the current target of 32% of the total energy mix by 2030 to 40%.
  • Stricter sustainability rules for biomass, and excluding biomass from primary forests from counting towards green targets.
  • Extending the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to also include transport (including shipping) and buildings. Free credits will also be phased out for the aviation industry and other industries.
  • Business sectors not covered by the ETS will become the subject of binding emissions goals under the ‘Effort Sharing Regulation’, with richer EU nations having stricter targets than poorer ones.
  • Expansion of the use of carbon sinks in soils and forests, with a target of 310 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions by 2030, up from the previous 265 million tonnes.
  • A requirement for faster renovation of buildings to achieve energy efficiency.
  • A tax on aviation and shipping fuels but a tax-holiday on lower-emissions fuels.
  • Tighter emissions limits for motor vehicles and an effective end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035.

As a possible sign of the proposals being at a level from which negotiations might eventually be successful, they have attracted criticism both from industry and business groups for being too stringent and from environmental campaigners for being too lax. As the BBC’s environmental correspondent Matt McGrath noted, the proposals are “breathtaking” in that they will likely impact every EU citizen through higher electricity and heating bills and costs of travel, and risk repeats of the gilets jaunes protests that affected France after the briefly-introduced environmental taxes on diesel in late 2018.

The announcement of the proposals came a week after an open letter from 22 chief executives and 18 European legislators to President Ursula von der Leyen was published calling on the EC to provide “a stronger European policy focus and increased investments boosting the availability of renewables for industrial use”, as without one Europe is “still far from the needed volumes and capacity in terms of renewable energy to unleash the industrial electrification business case”. It said that an EU-wide approach to energy is needed, including in:

  • granting permits for renewable developments
  • ensuring a coherent approach to investment
  • abolishing grid bottlenecks
  • encouraging the flow of energy across borders
  • removing barriers to integrating renewable energy production and industrial use.

The EC’s industrial strategy, released earlier in the year, did not address these concerns, the authors said, and it remains to be seen if the detail of the final ‘Fit For 55’ deal, when concluded, will address these concerns.