EU unveils tough climate rules, eyes tax on foreign firms

Jul 14, 2021, 12:07 AM | Updated: 12:43 pm
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, center, and European Commissioner for European ...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, center, and European Commissioner for European Green Deal Frans Timmermans, left, speak during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. The European Union is unveiling Wednesday sweeping new legislation to help meet its pledge to cut emissions of the gases that cause global warming by 55% over this decade, including a controversial plan to tax foreign companies for the pollution they cause. (AP Photo/Valeria Mongelli)

(AP Photo/Valeria Mongelli)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union unveiled sweeping new legislation Wednesday to help meet its pledge to cut emissions of the gases that cause global warming by 55% over this decade, including a controversial plan to tax foreign companies for the pollution they cause.

The legislation presented by the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, encompasses about a dozen major proposals, ranging from the de-facto phasing out of gasoline and diesel cars by 2035 to new levies on gases from heating buildings.

They involve a revamp of the bloc’s emissions trading program, under which companies pay for carbon dioxide they emit, and introduce taxes on shipping and aviation fuels for the first time.

Most of the proposals build on existing laws that were designed to meet the EU’s old goal of a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels — and must be endorsed by the 27 member countries and EU lawmakers.

World leaders agreed six years ago in Paris to work to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F) by the end of the century. Scientists say both goals will be missed by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to reduce emissions.

“The principle is simple: emission of CO2 must have a price, a price on CO2 that incentivizes consumers, producers and innovators to choose the clean technologies, to go toward the clean and sustainable products,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The commission wants to exploit the public mood for change provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s already channeling more than one-third of a massive recovery package aimed at reviving European economies ravaged by coronavirus restrictions into climate-oriented goals.

The aim of the “Fit for 55” legislation, commission officials say, is to ween the continent off fossil fuels and take better care of the environment by policy design, rather than be forced into desperate measures at some future climatic tipping point, when it’s all but too late.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that by failing to act now, “we would fail our children and grandchildren, who in my view, if we don’t fix this, will be fighting wars over water and food.”

Given the implications, the proposals are certain to be subject to intense lobbying from industry and environmental groups as they pass through the legislative process over at least the next year. They’ll also face resistance because of the very different energy mixes in member countries, ranging from coal-reliant Poland to nuclear-dependent France.

Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, said negotiations need to focus on maintaining the ambitious targets in a reliable way, be fair to the poor and ensure all of Europe “goes down this path together.”

“National solo efforts won’t lead to the goal,” she said. “There needs to be a coordinated, massive expansion of sun and wind power from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.”

Echoing the thoughts of some climate scientists, Oxfam EU head Evelien van Roemburg urged the member countries and lawmakers to be more ambitious than the European Commission.

“They must step up ambition by ensuring all EU climate rules contribute to carbon emission cuts of at least 65% in 2030, rather than the current 55%,” she said.

Among the legislation’s most controversial elements is a plan for a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.” It would impose duties on foreign companies and therefore increase the price of certain goods, notably steel, aluminum, concrete and fertilizer.

The aim is to ease pressure on European producers that cut emissions but struggle to compete with importers that don’t have the same environmental restrictions.

The question is how the EU — known for its staunch defense of open trade — will ensure that the carbon tax complies with World Trade Organization rules and not be considered a protectionist measure.

Another concern is the need to help those likely to be hit by rising energy prices. The commission is proposing the creation of a “social climate fund” worth several billion euros to help those who might be hardest hit.

“This fund will support income and it will support investments to tackle energy poverty and to cut bills for vulnerable households and small businesses,” von der Leyen said.

But Martha Myers, a member of the climate justice team at Friends of the Earth Europe, said the decision to extend emissions trading to buildings “throws low-income people into high energy price waters while offering only a swimming float of support to relieve energy poverty.”

Under Fit for 55, a drastic acceleration in sales of battery-powered cars also is likely as the EU aims for a 100% reduction in auto emissions.

Hildegard Mueller, president of the German Association of the Automobile Industry, said the industry supports the EU goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. But she said that goal can only be accomplished “if the consumers and companies can implement these goals.”

Mueller warned of a “substantial” impact on jobs at auto suppliers that would struggle with the pace of the changeover.

___

McHugh reported from Frankfurt, Germany. Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - One of Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon Power Plant's nuclear reactors in Avila Beach,...
Associated Press

California nuke extension challenged in legislative proposal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A proposal circulated Friday by California Democratic legislators would reject Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to extend the lifespan of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant — and instead spend over $1 billion to speed up the development of renewable energy, new transmission lines and storage to maintain reliable power in […]
20 hours ago
In this photo provided by the National Park Service, cars are stuck in mud and debris from flash fl...
Associated Press

Flood-damaged Death Valley to reopen popular sites to public

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Death Valley National Park’s most popular sites will reopen to the public on Saturday, two weeks after massive flash-flooding, but the National Park Service cautioned visitors to expect delays and continuing road closures. Locations that will reopen include the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, and […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge throws out Maine lawsuit against COVID vaccine mandate

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a complaint from a group of health care workers who said they were unfairly discriminated against by Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement. The plaintiffs sued Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and other Maine officials along with a group of health care organizations in the state. The workers argued […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Federal court rejects Mississippi student’s racial bias suit

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A lawsuit alleging a school district in a small Mississippi Delta town discriminated against a Black student and stripped her of an academic award has been dismissed by a panel of federal judges. Olecia James filed the federal lawsuit in 2019 against the Cleveland School District, claiming officials prevented her from […]
20 hours ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to reporters during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Friday,...
Associated Press

Pence says he didn’t leave office with classified material

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he didn’t take any classified information with him when he left office. The disclosure — which would typically be unremarkable for a former vice president — is notable given that FBI agents seized classified and top secret information from his former boss’s […]
20 hours ago
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)...
Associated Press

Don’t dawdle with latest iPhone update. Here’s why and how

Apple released an upgrade Wednesday to close a security hole that could allow hackers to seize control of iPhones and several other popular Apple products.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
EU unveils tough climate rules, eyes tax on foreign firms