E.U. & Climate Change: European Union Releases 'Green Deal' to Cut Emissions in Half in Ten Years

European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2021. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

The European Union unveiled an ambitious program Wednesday to transform the region’s economy to combat climate change, eliminating dependence on fossil fuel, jumpstarting development and adoption of alternative energies, and imposing the world’s first import tax proportionate to greenhouse gases emitted.

The proposal, spearheaded by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, targets carbon emissions by mandating that businesses and households switch to sustainable technologies such as wind turbines, solar power and electric vehicles. It seeks to curb pollution across all domains of European life, by requiring automobile makers to stop selling vehicles with combustion engines by 2035 and by requiring ships coming into European ports to run on clean fuel, among other provisions. However, the the various facets of the proposal will have to be negotiated by the body’s 27 member nations and the European parliament before becoming law.

The commission’s plan, coined the EU Green Deal, is an attempt to fulfill the EU’s pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions 55% by 2030  and achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The purpose of the legislation’s import tax is to effectively decarbonize Europe’s supply chain, stopping polluting industries from moving production outside Europe to evade the bloc’s emissions restrictions and then exporting back into the EU. While proponents believe it is crucial to assign a price to carbon dioxide emissions, opponents worry the tax could stifle international trade.

The United States withdrew from the Paris Accords under the Trump administration, citing unfair and drastic obligations and the deal’s failure to hold the globe’s worst polluters, such as China, accountable, but rejoined under the Biden administration, which has made climate crisis mitigation and environmental activism major priorities.

The White House has emphasized the need for industrial sectors to embrace renewable energies, although the cost of such a transition has been less discussed. In April, President Biden announced a goal for the country to produce 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and to cut carbon emissions in half by 2020. However, a provision in Biden’s infrastructure bill that would set a national renewable energy standard was removed during negotiations with Republicans.

The EU’s initiative comes in anticipation of a climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland in November, where the U.S. and Europe intend to persuade China and less developed nations to make new commitments to slash their emissions.

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