Climate Policy – EU: 2035 End for new gasoline and diesel cars

In essence, the proposal of the EU authority provides for the consumption of fossil fuels to become more expensive in order to accelerate the switch to climate-friendly technologies. The car industry is also to be imposed even more stringent carbon dioxide limits – by 2035 at the latest, only emission-free cars are to be registered in the EU.

Apart from that, consumers must expect increased costs for the use of conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles and for heating. The Brussels authority wants to create a separate emissions trading system for road traffic and the building sector, which makes CO2 emissions from these areas chargeable. Intra-European flights and cruises could become more expensive due to new energy taxes. In order not to leave people with low incomes alone with rising energy and transport costs, there should be a climate social fund.

“The fossil fuel economy is reaching its limits,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when presenting the plans. It is now a matter of combining the reduction of emissions with measures for nature conservation and placing employment and social balance at the center of the transformation.

Vice President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for climate protection, openly admitted: “Everything we have presented today will not be easy – it will be damn hard.”

The totality of the proposed measures should enable the EU states to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 55 percent below the 1990 level by 2030. That is why the package is also called “Fit for 55” by the Commission. The long-term goal of the EU is that by 2050 no more climate-damaging gases will be released into the atmosphere. This is how man-made climate change and its consequences are to be stopped. Scientists see global warming as a reason for rising sea levels and weather-related natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and forest fires.

For the auto industry, the EU Commission specifically proposes that by 2030 the greenhouse gas emissions of new cars should decrease by 55 percent compared to 2021. If manufacturers do not adhere to the specifications, penalties should be paid. From 2035 onwards, only emission-free new vehicles are to be registered in the EU. However, there should be a review clause. Accordingly, every two years it should be analyzed how far the manufacturers are; A major test report is to follow in 2028. In theory, the date 2035 could still be postponed.

Vice President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for climate protection, openly admitted: “Everything we have presented today will not be easy – it will be damn hard.”

The initial reactions to the Commission’s plans were mixed. While environmental organizations such as Greenpeace spoke of an inadequate contribution to climate protection, business representatives expressed concern. The aviation industry warned that the Commission’s plans would put them at a competitive disadvantage. The Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) indicated, among other things, that the proposed 55 percent target would require a very high proportion of e-cars. By the end of the decade, almost two thirds of new cars across the EU should have electric, hybrid or fuel cell drives.

The VDA was alluding to the fact that the EU Commission specifically wants to stipulate that greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles must be reduced by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 2021. If manufacturers do not adhere to the specifications, penalties should be payable. From 2035 onwards, only emission-free new vehicles are to be registered in the EU. However, there should be a review clause. Accordingly, every two years it should be analyzed how far the manufacturers are; A major test report is to follow in 2028. In theory, the date 2035 could still be postponed.

For the change in the transport sector, charging points for electric cars are to be set up every 60 kilometers on major highways in the EU. The Commission estimates the investment costs for the charging infrastructure at a total of 15 billion euros. Hydrogen filling stations are to be built every 150 kilometers.

In order not to put European industry at a disadvantage on the world market, European producers of products such as steel, aluminum, fertilizer and electricity are planned to be protected from foreign competition with less stringent climate protection requirements via a so-called border adjustment mechanism. It provides for a CO2 tax to be introduced on imports of these goods.

The Member States and the European Parliament must now discuss the implementation of the proposals. From the point of view of the EU Commission, speed is of the essence in order to give industry and consumers as much time as possible for the changes and reductions. “This is the all-important decade in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis,” commented Commission Vice-President Timmermans.

In the case of the major greenhouse gas emitters such as traffic, buildings, agriculture and garbage, the 27 nation states have to take care of a reduction. According to the EU Commission, Austria should step up a gear here. In Germany, CO2 emissions in these areas are to be reduced by 48 percent by 2030 compared to 2005. This puts Austria above the EU average of minus 40 percent. So far, the so-called effort sharing has been minus 36 percent for the Alpine republic.

Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) welcomed the package and promised rapid and ambitious implementation. A uniform changeover date to clean cars is “very gratifying,” stressed Gewessler. An end to the tax privilege on kerosene is also a really good sign for more climate protection. The climate protection ministry plans to examine further measures such as emissions trading, effort sharing, the introduction of a CO2 border adjustment, a faster switch to renewable energies and a fund for social justice in the coming days. “At first glance, the package presented is good and ambitious – and that’s what we need to achieve our goals,” said Gewessler. Austria will pay particular attention to social justice.

The Chamber of Labor (AK) and the Federation of Trade Unions (ÖGB) meanwhile demanded that the path to climate neutrality must be socially fair. The Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ) pushed for global pressure from the EU for more climate protection, not just in Europe. Environmental organizations consider the climate protection package presented by the EU Commission to be inadequate.

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