On Wednesday, July 14th, the European Union (EU) announced legislation to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and bring Europe to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. There are 12 new legislative proposals to help accomplish this goal. Some of the most prominent are eliminating the sale of new gas and diesel cars by 2035, as well as imposing tariffs on countries that are not doing enough to reduce their own carbon footprint. Reuters reports that while, “the EU produces only 8% of global emissions, [it] hopes its example will elicit ambitious action from other major economies when they meet in November in Glasgow for the next milestone UN climate conference.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, says, “Our current fossil fuel economy has reached its limit,” and “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.” All countries within the EU now have to discuss and agree upon these legislative proposals. The New York Times reports, “The detailed proposals only mark the start of what promises to be a difficult and bruising two-year negotiation among industry, 27 countries, and the European Parliament on how to reach the 55% reduction [by 2030].”
The EU has taken a huge step not only for the continent but also for the world as they try to push other large economies towards a plan to achieve carbon neutrality. That being said, France has already spoken out about these proposals, cautioning the European Union about potential protests that could arise from decarbonization. In 2018, the French government tried to raise taxes on fuel, which resulted in the yellow-vest protest movement. There is the worry that similar events will occur, as less wealthy member countries, as well as countries that rely more heavily on fossil fuels, may be forced to pay the brunt of the cost of decarbonization. But, by actively avoiding these inequitable costs, the EU should still be able to make sure these entirely necessary proposals come to fruition. Already, the New York Times reports that “The proposals also include a Social Climate Fund… that could provide up to 70 billion euros (about $83 billion) to help governments help the people who are most affected.”
The European Union has focused on implementing climate policy for decades, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 from 1990 levels. According to the European Commission, in 2018, emissions were 23% below the 1990 levels, meaning their goal was completed before the expected date. Goals like this display that the world has long since known about the consequences of climate change and the importance of addressing it. While the EU has consistently worked towards lower carbon emissions, certain influential and powerful countries have not always followed suit. For instance, in 2019, President Trump removed the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, hurting an international effort to reduce carbon emissions. But, with the severity of the EU’s most recent climate proposals, real change could be well on its way, not only for Europe but for other parts of the world as well.
These proposals are extremely important as climate change needs to be addressed head-on before it is too late. While the EU only produces 8% of global emissions, their new proposals will hopefully nudge other powerful countries into action. The New York Times echoes this sentiment, writing, “All eyes are on targets set by the United States and China, which currently produce the largest share of greenhouse gases.” With the Glasgow UN climate conference only months away, hopefully, other countries will have reached more decisive plans in line with the European Union’s new goals.