The Green Deal Gets Real

Article By : Anne-Françoise Pelé

Europe intends to ban the sale of new fossil-fuel cars after 2035 as part of a plan to reach climate neutrality by 2050.

PETROL OR DIESEL? Neither one. Europe intends to ban the sale of new fossil-fuel cars after 2035 as part of a plan to reach climate neutrality by 2050.

This summer, the European Commission unveiled a set of proposals to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. Part of the larger European Union’s Green Deal, the EC’s Fit for 55 package aims to hasten the decarbonization of the bloc’s economy.


“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 roadmap on the table,” said EC President Ursula von der Leyen. “This is our generational task, and it must unite us and encourage us.”

Road transport is subject to particularly severe treatment under the program. To accelerate the transition to zero-emission mobility, Europe is mandating that the average emissions of new cars come down 55% from 2021 levels by 2030 and 100% just five years after that. All new cars and vans will have to have zero exhaust emissions by 2035.

To stimulate the uptake of electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the EC calls for an expansion of charging infrastructure with the installation of electric charging points every 60 km and hydrogen refueling points every 150 km.

In parallel, the EC will seek to foster the domestic production of hydrogen and its use as an alternative fuel.
The Fit for 55 proposals, if adopted and implemented, would also increase the overall share of renewables in the EU energy mix by 2030 from the 32% initially targeted to 40%, raise the price charged for carbon emitted to make the use of fossil fuels increasingly expensive, and provide financial support to those most affected by potential price hikes.

Beyond the political calculus, Brussels sees the decarbonization plan as an instrument to spur technological and market leadership for Europe.

While accounting for only 8% of global CO2 emissions, the EU acknowledges its responsibility for a higher share of cumulative emissions. “The fossil-fuel economy has reached its limits,” said von der Leyen. “We have to move on to a new model — one that is powered by innovation, that has clean energy, that is moving toward a circular economy.”

Some environmental activists say the Fit for 55 package does not go far enough. But the EC’s plan increases the pressure on nations with comparable or larger carbon footprints to redouble their own efforts.

China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has just implemented its first national carbon emissions trading scheme. Researchers, however, argue that the long-awaited initiative may not be ambitious enough to help China reach its peak emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden fulfilled his promise to bring the U.S. back into the Paris Agreement, with the intention to achieve a 50% to 52% reduction from 2005 levels of net greenhouse gas pollution across the economy by 2030.

Some detractors have called the EC plan overly aggressive, von der Leyen acknowledged. “But when it comes to climate change, doing less or doing nothing literally means changing everything,” she said, referring to recent weather-related disasters. The summer’s devastating and deadly flooding in Germany and Belgium has not faded from memory; on the contrary, it has amplified the public discourse on climate change.

The EU’s Fit for 55 package is a key step on the road to the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, known informally as COP26, which will convene in Glasgow, Scotland, later this year.

European action alone will not be enough to slow or even reverse global warming. What better place than Glasgow, literally the “Dear Green Place” in Gaelic, to seal a Global Green Deal?

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

Anne-Françoise Pelé is editor-in-chief of and EE Times Europe.


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