Faced with resistance to environmental regulations, Brussels is aiming for a “fair transition” that “guarantees the competitiveness of the industry.” This target for 2040, which the next Commission will have to translate into a legislative proposal, would involve continuing the same rate of reduction as in the 2020-2030 decade. “Leadership in green industries and a just transition are two sides of the same coin,” added Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.
While “equity, solidarity, and social policies should enable low-income households to make an effective transition,” other political conditions are necessary: “guaranteeing the competitiveness” of industrial sectors, “fair competitive conditions” internationally, “stable and sustainable jobs”… The next Commission resulting from the June elections will have the heavy task of submitting a formal legislative proposal to the renewed European Parliament and Member States. After facing opposition from right-wing MEPs and farmers, as well as calls for “regulatory pause” to ease the burden on businesses and households, this set of environmental legislation has encountered difficulties in the agricultural sector following its impact on the transport, energy, and industry sectors.
Although the greening of agriculture (which accounts for 11% of European emissions) is mentioned, the text removes the potential for reducing agricultural emissions outlined in a previous document and deems it “more effective” to target the entire agri-food chain. “Climate policy is becoming complex, emotional, risky… In order to be socially acceptable and politically viable, strong actions will be needed in the coming years: new green financing, strengthened energy governance…” estimates Simone Tagliapietra from the Bruegel Institute.
“The implementation of the measures already approved alone would bring us closer to -90% by 2040, but this target remains revolutionary; it will require massive decarbonization of sectors where it’s difficult,” warns Tagliapietra. Brussels envisions an “Industrial Green Pact” with appropriate regulations, supply chains, and financing, as well as access to sufficient and affordable decarbonized energy with the continuous expansion of renewables, hydrogen networks, as well as civil nuclear power through future small modular reactors. Electricity production should be “almost decarbonized in the second half of the 2030s,” while the consumption of fossil fuels burned for energy purposes would drop by 80% by 2040.
Carbon market, transportation, carbon border tax… With the legislations already adopted, “the work has been done for the pre-2030 period; acceleration is happening now, followed by an extension of efforts,” tempers Pascal Canfin, president (Renew, liberals) of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament. “Obviously, we must continue. It’s an election issue,” he warns.
According to Brussels, the investments required for the period 2031-2050 could reach €660 billion annually in the energy sector and €870 billion in transportation: a colossal cost, combining public and private investments, but to be compared with the “cost of inaction” in the face of climate damages.