The European Union, as one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters behind China and the United States, is set to become the leader of global climate change initiatives as they release their new “Fit for 55” plan last Wednesday. If successful, the EU will cut their total emissions 55% by 2030, based on levels from 1990. Already, they are on track to reach their target, as emissions have been reduced by 24%, leaving another 21% to be cut in 9 years. The policies included within the plan cover many sectors of the economy that have been slower to reduce emissions, including industry, transportation, energy, and housing. With a goal this ambitious, the 27 member states and the European Parliament will go through months of negotiations before the package is passed. However, it looks promising that the EU will become the first and largest economy to be driven by greener, more sustainable practices.
European lawmakers have so far responded positively to the new policies, with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the forefront, calling the target to cut emissions “our generational task” and the package a part of “political aspiration [turning] to legal obligation.” Even though other states made initiatives to reduce their overall negative impacts on the environment, the “Fit for 55” plan is the first of its kind to have an effect on global trade flows. But, as U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claims, “there’s a powerful incentive once one significant country has adopted this” that might inspire other states to follow suit. In all, the transition to a greener economy might be difficult, but beneficial in that “our economy will look a lot better, and we can get the climate crisis under control” as EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans says.
The EU has made a bold step in combating climate change with their new plan, one that will force a change in how these states and the EU as a whole will operate. But this is the type of legislation needed to make a significant difference in slowing the effects of climate change, because what has been done up to now is not enough. Even if not all of the policies are passed into law, initiatives like carbon border tariffs will pressure companies to reduce their emissions and create a wider impact that reaches outside the EU. The “Fit for 55” package is a symbolic move in the right direction and a call for all leaders and policymakers, such as in the U.S., to consider passing stricter legislation that will streamline companies and consumers into moving towards a green economy.
Until this point, many large-scale climate initiatives have been more on an agreement basis, where states will sign a protocol or plan without much enforcement and repercussions for not following policy, such as the Kyoto Protocol. States could even just leave, like the U.S. did with the Paris Accords. But the policies that are adopted with this new package will bind all states in the EU to these standards, and hopefully other outside states move in that direction as their industries will be left at a competitive disadvantage. The EU has already taken initiative in their larger goal towards carbon neutrality by 2050 under the name the European Green Deal. The “Fit for 55” is just the most recent proposal moving to fulfill that ambition.
With the introduction of the EU’s new set of climate initiatives, there comes praise that this is the beginning of widespread stricter legislation that will hold states, industries and consumers accountable in helping to fight climate change. But there are also its critics, for questions are being raised concerning rising consumer costs such as with energy bills and renovated housing, as well as industry opposition against higher taxes. There is also to consider the gap between richer and poorer states within the EU and being able to front the extra costs of moving to renewable practices. Either way, whether those view the “Fit for 55” deal as too much or too little, it is still an important step in the wider movement to combat climate change, for the good of everyone.