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BRUSSELS: On July 14 the European Commission released its ‘Fit for 55’ Green Deal legislative proposals aimed at reducing average EU carbon emissions 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Commission vice president Frans Timmermans described the proposals as “epic” and quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet in emphasizing their urgency: “‘The time is out of joint, o cursed spite! That ever I was born to set it right.' That's it. Time is out of joint. Because humanity no longer lives within planetary boundaries,” he declared.

One of the first reactions was from Oxfam EU head of Office Evelien van Roemburg who commented: “The Commission’s proposal to increase the share of renewable energy in the EU’s energy mix to 40 percent by 2030 will do nothing to tackle the climate crisis if it does not rule out the use of crop-based biofuels and the practice of burning down trees.”

As floods hit Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Switzerland this week, Oxfam estimates Europe needs to cut emissions by 65 percent to maintain the Paris Agreement goal of +1.5°C.

Climate economist Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research described the proposals as a “big deal” with no turning back: "The EU's policy package for stabilising our climate is the most comprehensive of its kind to date, and it builds on much that research has developed. Europe is creating a second emissions trading scheme, it is for transport and buildings/heat, in addition to the one for power generation and industry. This has fundamental significance for our entire economy [as] almost all sectors are now covered by carbon pricing.

“Weather extremes around the world clearly illustrate that strong action is key now if we want to limit costs and risks, and secure a safe future for all," Edenhofer added.

Aviation:

Noting the Commission will end the tax exemption on aviation fuel to encourage the use of cleaner, low-carbon alternatives, Transport & Environment (T&E) Aviation director Andrew Murphy noted the proposal only applied to fuel used on private and commercial flights within Europe: “By not removing the tax exemption for flights outside of the EU, it still lets the majority off the hook.”

IATA’s director general Willie Walsh said his members didn’t need a tax on aviation fuel to adopt low-carbon alternatives. “Europe’s national politicians are quick to lecture airlines on the efforts industry should be making on the environment. But they are silent when it comes to areas of their own responsibility.

“Just recently the European Council failed to show any leadership to cut emissions by harmonizing European air traffic management [a decades-long goal]. Moreover, the constant absence of political support from states on the Single European Sky proposals undermines the credibility of the ‘Fit for 55’ proposal and the credibility of Europe’s determination to drive real solutions for sustainability,” he continued.

Shipping:

Under a proposed European maritime Trading Scheme (ETS), shipping companies will have to buy carbon credits for their emissions on voyages within Europe and for 50 percent when travelling between EU and non-EU ports - or in the opposite direction. However, T&E said the mandate would actually boost the market for LNG, a fossil fuel, plus unsustainable biofuels, instead of promoting green hydrogen-based e-fuels. At the same time major ports will be required to spend billions on LNG refuelling infrastructure.

“The World Bank, IEA, shipyards and shipowners now recognise the pivotal role of green hydrogen in decarbonising shipping,” commented T&E Shipping Programme director Faig Abbasov. “The Commission remains the only major institution still recklessly pushing the industry to invest in LNG ships that will lock us into decades of further pollution and stranded assets. Governments and MEPs need to shift the focus onto promoting renewable hydrogen and ammonia instead.”

Cars & Trucks:

The Commission wants automobile manufacturers to reduce emissions of new cars 55 percent by 2030, rising to 100 percent five years later - a ‘drop-dead’ date also proposed by the UK.

T&E executive director William Todts said the proposal was “great news” for both the auto industry and its customers: “For the first time the EU is signalling the future of trucking is emissions-free. It is requiring states to start building the chargers that will power the trucks of the future.”

Commenting on forthcoming negotiations between the Commission, the European Parliament and 27 member states, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) thinks it will prove difficult to ensure that all of the ‘Fit for 55’ proposals are accepted.

“Strong political coordination will therefore be essential to deliver the ultimate aim of tackling climate change in the most efficient way – while keeping mobility affordable for all Europeans and preserving jobs for auto workers,” declared ACEA director general Eric-Mark Huitema. “Policy makers have a historic chance to get this right.”

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse noted the Commission’s Green Deal would only be successful with mandatory targets for the ramp-up of charging and refuelling infrastructure in all member states: “This will be essential to charge the millions of electric vehicles that European automakers will be bringing to market in the coming years, and to deliver an unprecedented reduction of CO2 emissions in the transport sector.”
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