It’s been called Fit for 55, Fit for 1.5 and now Fit for 2030. EU jargon aside, this new EU climate package is about our future on a liveable planet and finding a fair way to get there.
This week, the European Commission will publish the EU’s biggest set of climate measures ever proposed, which will determine the lives of future generations. We are just in the nick of time. Climate scientists are clear that it is not too late to stop life-threatening climate change. The Amazon can still grow back. Seasons can go back to normal. The Gulf of Mexico can go back to being water again. But, to keep this planet habitable, we need everyone on board: from individuals to companies, from countries to the European Commission.
Scientists have been sounding the alarm for years: 1.5°C of global warming is dire, 2°C is catastrophic. The Earth is currently at about 1°C of warming, which has already led to natural disasters, population displacement, biodiversity loss and much more. Cosmetic changes alone will not be enough. The world urgently needs to ramp up climate ambition to prevent the worst case scenario from becoming our new reality. The question is: will the EU step up as the global frontrunner on climate action? The EU could be a global climate champion. The Fit for 2030 package is its credibility test.
Will Fit for 2030 be fit for the future? A crucial decade to save the climate has begun
The European Commission has the unique power to propose legislation to solve the climate crisis. The Fit for 2030 package will contain at least twelve new climate proposals and is the next phase of the European Green Deal. It will lay out how the Commission plans to make Europe fit to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050. With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) coming up in November 2021 and the last crucial decade to save the climate already in full swing, this Fit for 2030 package must be a game-changer.
We have been advocating for some of these changes for years, and we are proud that many are now becoming a reality. In the Fit for 2030 package, we’re likely to see a proposal for a tax on jet fuel, the phase out of the internal combustion engine by 2035, the introduction of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and a distinct move towards more energy savings and renewable energies. We hope to see a raising of the carbon price, but it cannot come at a social cost that disproportionately affects lower-income people.
The European Green Deal can be transformational, and we want it to succeed. The Fit for 2030 package is the roadmap for that transformation. It includes everything from how to end our dependence on fossil fuels to how we can better save energy in all sectors of our economy.
We’re eager to hash out the nitty-gritty details and work constructively to improve it. This is more than just about climate. It’s about a fundamental restructuring of how we organise society and our relationship with nature. It’s about our wellbeing and about our future on this Earth. The EU needs to prove that these are not just words on paper, but commitments that will deliver for the Paris Climate Agreement, for the Green Deal, and for a fair and just future.
The poorest and most vulnerable must not pay the cost for climate inaction
Climate change already affects poor people the most. And what’s more, it acts as an amplifier of other vulnerabilities. Lower-income households are more likely to be in polluted areas. They are more affected by food prices going up. They pay more for heating and cooling because they’re likely to live in badly insulated buildings. Their jobs are more likely to be risky and precarious. The biggest challenge is how to ensure the Green Deal is fair. The costs of inaction are high. Climate change jeopardises our right to keep living in a healthy environment. The longer the wait, the higher will be the costs to transition.
That is why the Fit for 2030 package cannot add more costs to vulnerable people. It shouldn’t become a burden for vulnerable citizens, who may not be able to easily switch to more efficient cars or insulated homes. There is a risk that too much is being asked of citizens, while allowing free passes for big industry and polluters. We need to make polluters pay their fair share. People – their health and their wellbeing, and especially those who are already vulnerable – should be at the core of this climate package.
Here, EU Member States will also need to lead and not hide behind Brussels to deliver on the Green Deal. A socially just transformation has to mean a profound shift in the tax system. New tools should set out a fair redistribution of the costs, to bring people along with this urgently needed transition. This will not be solved by adding an additional social fund. Member States and the Commission have a responsibility to use the Green Deal to end systematic inequality and improve the lives of citizens everywhere.
What is in the Fit for 2030 package? Unpacking a game-changing batch of proposals
A total of twelve proposals will be launched on 14th July, with more due in autumn 2021. This is the starting gun for implementing the goals of the Green Deal, and fundamentally changing how our economy and society works.
The “Fit for 2030” Package in a nutshell
On 14th of July 2021, the European Commission is expected to release its “Fit for 55” Package, a set of revised legislation to implement its Green Deal. It will consist of:
Updated legislation on the energy performance of Buildings Directive, the reduction of methane emissions in the energy sector and a revision of the Third Energy Package for gas are part of the package but are expected for Q4 2021 only.
A green industrial revolution: getting the engine started for a green economic recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the delicate fragility of our global economy, with staff lay-offs and companies of all sizes teetering on the edge of collapse. Economic and industrial transformation is coming. We need to be prepared. All sectors will need to play their part responsibly. Lawmakers will need to make sure the rules are fair, predictable and driving towards a fully decarbonised economy and a safer future.
The Fit for 2030 package could provide the backbone for the indispensable tools we need to shift to a green economic model. For starters, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) should no longer award free allowances – permits to pollute – to big industry. Free allowances are a disincentive for industry to switch to renewable or sustainable solutions. Big polluters should not get rewards. Quite the opposite, polluters should pay for the damage they cause.
Another long-awaited climate tool in the package is the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which will introduce a carbon fee on products coming into the EU. The aim is to level the playing field so that products made inside the EU can compete with those made less sustainably abroad. It will also help to dissuade companies from relocating to countries with less strict rules on sustainable manufacturing, on the hunt for lower production costs.
If it’s going to be meaningful, the green transformation has to be bold and far-reaching. Our goal is a state-of-the-art decarbonised industry for Europe, but it’s not only European industry that will benefit. What’s really at the heart of the green transformation are people. If we have learned anything from this turbulent year, it’s that we cannot underestimate the importance of resilience and stability. People’s lives, and livelihoods, hang in the balance. In the face of the impending climate crisis, we need an economy that can guarantee the security of a habitable future climate and stable jobs that are not reliant on burning up our planet’s finite resources. The job market will change, and we need to make sure people are well supported to access the sustainable jobs of the future.
How can we achieve a socially just transition? The devil is in the details
A lot remains to be done to align this package with the promises of the Paris Climate Agreement, tackle the biodiversity crisis, and above all, ensure tangible benefits for people. Already, there are a few red flags that need to be urgently addressed.
The Commission must rethink socially regressive proposals like new Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS) for road transport and buildings. This could have the effect of pushing up fuel prices and heating costs, making the cost of living and getting around much more expensive. It would be low-income households who would be hit hardest by the extra expense and be least likely to be able to afford to switch to cleaner alternatives. These measures are high-risk and low-reward. They would have no impact on emissions before 2030, but a highly negative impact on our most vulnerable people. Moreover, national governments would no longer have an incentive to make strong national climate legislation on energy efficiency and road pricing.
At the same time, the Fit for 2030 package should focus more on energy efficiency. A drive for energy efficiency first will save people money. Every kilowatt of energy we do not use, we do not need to pay for. This is a concrete benefit that people can see in their daily lives. Mandatory requirements for improving energy efficiency of buildings will also put responsibility back into the hands of Member States to deliver on the Green Deal.
Finally, the EU’s mandatory 2030 renewable energy target should be substantially increased. Creating a 100% sustainable renewable-based economy by 2040 is not only technologically and economically possible, but – most importantly – it is absolutely essential to keep the earth below 1.5°C of global warming. Binding national targets should be reintroduced, with strong rights for citizens to produce their own renewable energy. None of this is compatible with any proposal that includes “low-carbon fuels” of fossil or nuclear origin. These should not be any part of the EU’s future energy production. In addition, there should be no support for cutting trees for energy use which has a direct negative impact on our forests and on biodiversity. Nature is in crisis and in dire need of greater protection.
Say so long to the combustion engine! Clean, green transport is coming.
One of the best bits of news we can expect from the Fit for 2030 package is a ban on internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2035. Banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the next decade is imperative to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Several countries, like the UK and Norway, have already announced this step. Many car manufacturers have already prepared for the end of combustion engine commercialisation around 2035.
It is only logical for the Commission to follow suit by setting up zero CO2 emission performance standards as of 2030. We need rules that support the pioneers in this industry.
For the Green Deal to be a success, we need strong leadership by EU Member States
Brussels alone cannot pull off the transformation needed across Europe. Each EU Member State must take responsibility for the success of the Green Deal – and make sure that their citizens feel the benefits. National solutions with binding targets should not be replaced by top-down Brussels proposals. Member States must decide to redistribute revenues fairly to counter inequalities. They have to ensure the socially vulnerable benefit from the changes that must happen. This is a transformation impacting everyone, and no one can be left behind.
There is still time to reverse the effects of climate change and to ensure that we, and future generations, can continue enjoying life on a habitable planet. Our home is worth it, and we are worth it. The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament are working hard to fight for a Green Deal which lives up to the moment and allows us to utilise all the tools at our disposal. If we can make this climate package truly fit for 2030, then we will be one step closer to building a future fit for people and planet.
Gábor Vágó – Climate Campaigner