Europe

EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ green scheme is a gamechanger for renewables

The European Commission announced in Brussels on July 14 its Fit for 55 package, a broad range of legislation that will help the EU reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Achieving these emission reductions in the next decade is crucial to Europe becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and making the European Green Deal a reality, the EU Commission said, presenting the legislative tools to deliver on the targets agreed in the European Climate Law and fundamentally transform the EU’s economy and society for a fair, green and prosperous future.

The ambitious climate and energy package proposes to revise and strengthen the legislative framework for renewables as originally laid out in the 2017 Clean Energy Package, and represents a landmark moment for the European energy transition and the wind, solar and hydrogen industry in particular.

Meanwhile in Prague, WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson told New Europe on the sidelines of the Prague European Summit on July 14 the Commission’s Fit for 55 package is a gamechanger for renewable energy. “And the very focus on electrification is what helps make it a gamechanger for renewables because electricity is less than one quarter of the total energy system today. We’ve done a pretty good, we’re doing a pretty good job in getting renewables into electricity but that’s only one quarter of the energy system. We got to get renewables into the whole rest of the energy system which means electrifying the rest of energy system. Getting from 25 percent to 75 percent electrification by 2050. So, everything the Commission is proposing in the Fit for 55 package that will drive, incentivize electrification of heating, transport and industrial processes is good for renewables,” Dickson said.

According to the WindEurope CEO, the 75% electrification breaks down: 57% direct electrification, which means renewable energy directly powering directly transport, heating and industry; and 18% indirect electrification through hydrogen. “And that 18 percent is for the so-called hard-to-abate parts of the energy system such as heavy-duty transport, parts of heavy industry that cannot be electrified directly, physically. They just cannot,” Dickon told New Europe.

The proposals presented on July 14 will enable the necessary acceleration of greenhouse gas emission reductions in the next decade, the Commission said. They combine: application of emissions trading to new sectors and a tightening of the existing EU Emissions Trading System; increased use of renewable energy; greater energy efficiency; a faster roll-out of low emission transport modes and the infrastructure and fuels to support them; an alignment of taxation policies with the European Green Deal objectives; measures to prevent carbon leakage; and tools to preserve and grow our natural carbon sinks.

The Commission is also proposing to phase out free emission allowances for aviation and align with the global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and to include shipping emissions for the first time in the EU ETS. To address the lack of emissions reductions in road transport and buildings, a separate new emissions trading system is set up for fuel distribution for road transport and buildings.

Member States also share responsibility for removing carbon from the atmosphere, so the Regulation on Land Use, Forestry and Agriculture sets an overall EU target for carbon removals by natural sinks, equivalent to 310 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030. National targets will require Member States to care for and expand their carbon sinks to meet this target. By 2035, the EU should aim to reach climate neutrality in the land use, forestry and agriculture sectors, including also agricultural non-CO2 emissions, such as those from fertiliser use and livestock. The EU Forest Strategy aims to improve the quality, quantity and resilience of EU forests. It supports foresters and the forest-based bioeconomy while keeping harvesting and biomass use sustainable, preserving biodiversity, and setting out a plan to plant three billion trees across Europe by 2030.

According to the Commission, energy production and use accounts for 75% of EU emissions, so accelerating the transition to a greener energy system is crucial. The Renewable Energy Directive will set an increased target to produce 40% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030. All Member States will contribute to this goal, and specific targets are proposed for renewable energy use in transport, heating and cooling, buildings and industry.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said reaching the Green Deal goals will not be possible without reshaping the EU’s energy system – this is where most of our emissions are generated. “To achieve climate-neutrality by 2050, we need to turn the renewables evolution into a revolution and make sure no energy is wasted along the way. Today’s proposals set more ambitious targets, remove barriers and add incentives so that we move even faster towards a net-zero energy system,” Simson said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that the fossil fuel economy has reached its limits. “We want to leave the next generation a healthy planet as well as good jobs and growth that does not hurt our nature. The European Green Deal is our growth strategy that is moving towards a decarbonised economy. Europe was the first continent to declare to be climate neutral in 2050, and now we are the very first ones to put a concrete roadmap on the table. Europe walks the talk on climate policies through innovation, investment and social compensation,” von der Leyen said.

Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans noted that this is the make-or-break decade in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises. “The European Union has set ambitious targets and today we present how we can meet them. Getting to a green and healthy future for all will require considerable effort in every sector and every Member State. Together, our proposals will spur the necessary changes, enable all citizens to experience the benefits of climate action as soon as possible, and provide support to the most vulnerable households,” Timmermans said, stressing that Europe’s transition will be fair, green and competitive.

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