BRUSSELS (AN) — The European Commission adopted a set of proposals on Wednesday that it said would cut net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by the end of this decade.
The proposals from the European Union's executive branch aim to transform the 27-nation bloc into "the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050" and to achieve the European Green Deal, a three-decade blueprint to sustainably overhaul Europe’s trade, industry and politics announced by the E.U. in 2019. They also are intended to set an example for the United States and other nations.
They range from tighter emission limits that would effectively phase out gas- and diesel-powered cars by 2035 to a new tax on aviation fuel to a carbon border tariff forcing non-E.U. nations to pay more to import steel, concrete and other materials. Each E.U. member nation and the European Parliament will be asked to approve them.
"We know where we want to go and what we need to do to get there. We know, for example, that our current fossil fuel economy has reached its limits," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. "And we know that we have to move on to a new model — one that is powered by innovation, that has clean energy, that is moving towards a circular economy."
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, however, said the European Commission's proposals will not do nearly enough to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement's goal of preventing average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees C. if possible.
"So it’s official. Unless the E.U. tear up their new #Fitfor55 package, the world will not stand a chance of staying below 1.5° C of global heating," she said on Twitter. "That’s not an opinion, once you include the full picture, it’s a scientific fact. #MindTheGap between words and action."
The Brussels-based BusinessEurope lobbying organization called the "Fit-for-55" proposal — a reference to the 55% goal — a push in the right direction, but warned it could destabilize some important economic sectors.
"European industry supports the European Union's climate ambition. It is ready to take its share of responsibility and has a lot of technological solutions and breakthrough innovations to provide," said BusinessEurope President Pierre Gattaz.
"While the overall direction is right, the devil is in the details with lots of extremely important details in finding the right balance between climate ambition and economic and technological challenges," he said. "We will be very vigilant, regarding, for example, the consistency between different legislative measures to avoid double regulation of European industry."
The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association, or IATA, denounced the aviation fuel tax proposal as "counter-productive" to the goal of sustainable aviation.
"Aviation is committed to decarbonization as a global industry," IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh said. "We don’t need persuading, or punitive measures like taxes to motivate change. In fact, taxes siphon money from the industry that could support emissions reducing investments in fleet renewal and clean technologies."