On July 14, 2021, the European Commission (EC) published a proposal to revise the Renewable Energy Directive to combat the climate crisis and comply with the European Green Deal. This proposal seeks to accelerate the adoption of renewable energies in the European Union (EU) with the objective of reducing net CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 55% by 2030 and, ultimately, achieving climate neutrality by 2050. This is why the new package of measures is called "Fit for 55".
This new package, consisting of 13 cross-cutting legislative proposals, includes 8 revisions of existing legislation and 5 completely new proposals. The importance of "Fit for 55" should be emphasized since, from the targets initially set in the European Climate Law, it has been extended from an original 40% to 55% GHG emission reductions.
What is "Fit for 55" based on?
Broadly speaking, the European Commission's main proposals focus on the following areas:
- Applying emissions trading to new sectors and strengthening the existing EU emissions trading scheme.Fomento de las energías renovables
- Promoting renewable energies
- Increasing energy efficiency
- Deployment of sustainable transport modes and the infrastructure and fuels needed to sustain them
- Alignment of fiscal policies with the objectives of the European Green Deal
- Measures to prevent carbon leakage
- Measures to preserve and enhance natural carbon sinks
Thus, this new project establishes a comprehensive framework for the deployment of renewable energies in all economic sectors. This package focuses on sectors where the process of switching to renewables has been slower (such as transport, construction and industry).
The proposal seeks to enable EU energy systems to become more flexible, facilitating the integration of renewables in the most efficient way possible; also supporting the uptake of green hydrogen where electrification is more difficult, such as aviation, for example.
The automobile sector, the main "affected" area
The goal for the major economic powers and generators of emissions harmful to health and the environment is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and thus avoid a major catastrophic climate crisis with no reaction time, already predicted by scientists.
So, one of the first measures proposed in "Fit for 55" to achieve these emission cuts will directly affect the automobile sector with the aim of putting an end to the sale of the internal combustion car. From 2035, neither gasoline nor diesel cars will be sold. This means that all new vehicles registered from 2035 onwards will be zero-emission; whether electric or hydrogen fuel cell, whose only "emissions" are water vapor, so they are also considered sustainable.
In order to carry out this project and achieve all the goals, the European Commission will propose an increase in energy taxes, which means that the fuels responsible for the highest emissions (diesel and butane gas, for example) will be those on which the greatest tax burden will fall and, therefore, will result in an increase in their price in order to encourage their disuse.
And to make the deployment of sustainable cars possible, the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation will require by law that all Member States expand its charging capacity. To be more specific, it will be mandatory for them to be installed on the main roads and freeways in each country:
Every 60 kilometers, fast charging points for electric cars.
Every 150 kilometers, hydrogen refueling points for hydrogen fuel cell electric cars (FCEV).
Areas of application
The new "Fit for 55" measures are not only aimed at the automotive industry, since the thirteen proposals that will be debated address different aspects of the climate crisis, already established in the European Green Deal and with the clear objective of being the first continent to achieve climate neutrality. Let's see which are the most noteworthy:
With regard to energy, the targets for energy efficiency and renewables are increased, as currently both energy production and use account for 75% of total emissions in the European Union. The Directive will therefore set a much more ambitious target to achieve at least 40% of energy from renewable sources by 2030. To achieve this, Member States will have to set specific targets for the use of renewable energies in transport, heating, cooling, buildings and industry, and will also have to boost annual energy savings.
In the aviation sector, the use of sustainable or "green" fuel will be increasingly mandatory for European flights, reaching a minimum of 60% by 2050. It should be noted that prices for intra-European flights will increase, since currently using sustainable fuel means an increase in price of up to five times more than kerosene. The aim, therefore, is to make short flights unattractive and thus expand the rail network.
For shipping, the EC has not set quotas for alternative fuels or gas turbines. But it has set a series of fixed climate targets that shipping companies and ship owners will have to meet in different phases. The intention is that shipping traffic will also be integrated into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
As far as the business sector is concerned, measures are set out that aim to encourage companies and consumers to make greener choices. The goal? To combat the climate crisis together and thus achieve more environmentally friendly habits; in short, to make the European Green Deal a reality and not a pipedream.
And in terms of measures to remove carbon from the atmosphere, the regulation on land use, forestry and agriculture sets, as an overall target, carbon uptake by natural sinks equivalent to 310 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030. According to "Fit for 55", the EU should also achieve climate neutrality by 2035 in the land use, forestry and agriculture sectors, both in terms of carbon and emissions from fertilisers and livestock.
First carbon border tariff
One of the main innovations presented by the EC is the creation of the world's first carbon border tariff, which will target imports of foreign-produced high-emission goods such as aluminium, steel and cement.
It would not be implemented until 2026, but the measure is designed to impose emission costs on such imports in order to protect European industries from foreign competitors that are not subject to a carbon reduction tax in their home countries.
Therefore, the purpose of this tariff is to boost the battle against the climate crisis and to raise awareness, outside EU borders, among those trading partners, nations and companies that are more reluctant to adopt strategies to decarbonise their production processes, such as China and Russia.
Implementation and transition
"Fit for 55" therefore contains new laws and legal reforms within the European Green Deal that still need to be negotiated and approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Approval of the new legislation by the EU institutions could take a year. It could then take another two years for the EU framework to be implemented into national law in each country. However, the EC plans to regulate some aspects already on the way to final legislation.
And finally, all the measures included in the "Fit for 55" package are designed to make the transition to a sustainable Europe socially just for all, so that the costs of tackling the climate crisis are shared fairly.
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