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Brussels Faces Reluctance to its Plan to Remove Fossil Fuels in 2050

Pandora’s box is open. The end of the era of combustion announced by the European Commission for 2050 has opened a debate that is still a long predicted. With the United States outside the Paris Agreement, Brussels is maneuvering to turn the European Union into the first major bloc to abandon dependence on coal, oil and natural gas.

The objective is to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions to stop global warming. Change of model is fought in the middle of an intense game of equilibria Governments, Parliaments, companies and workers depend on the new strategy. These are the reactions to the plan.

Some of the most critical voices come from the European Parliament and certain environmental entities. The European Parliament called for an intermediate target of emissions reduction of 55% in 2030, while the European Commission speaks of 45% by that date. Green MEPs have been especially belligerent on the importance of not postponing efforts to the period 2030-2050. “Reaching that percentage is the only realistic scenario to comply with the Paris Agreement,” said Spanish parliamentarian Florent Marcellesi.

The Transport & Environment organization has calculated that in order to realize the European purpose, the latest registrations of combustion cars must be ahead by 2035. For now, despite the fact that the European Commission document states that “the fleet of light commercial vehicles must be quickly replaced by zero-emission vehicles in the decades prior to 2050, “only a handful of states have made public commitments that approach that date. Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands have set a limit of 2030. While France and the United Kingdom plan to end their sale in 2040. With a life of vehicles of about 15 years, the accounts do not come out.

The enigma of employment, Belgian Christian Democrat MEP Ivo Belet has warned that the transition will be “much more complicated if people see their employment in danger”. And his compatriot, the Social Democrat Kathleen van Brempt agrees that the reform “should not leave anyone behind”.

The Commissioner for Action for Climate and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, has tried to calm the potential affected: “I want to reassure workers in the mining sector, we have heard them, we will re-train them to adapt to this economy of the weather”.

The threat of protests with the virulent revolt of the yellow vests active in France and Belgium, imposing a higher taxation on fuels to discourage their use has become a high-risk political gamble. “Taxes are not the only way out,” said Cañete, who is committed to giving aid to green projects.

Lack of ambition in the East . Sources close to the negotiation of the new strategy perceive certain suspicions in countries of the Visegrad block like Poland, still heavily dependent on coal. The fact that the rotating presidency of the EU in the first half of 2019 is in charge of Romania does not help to give impetus, although in the second half of the year it will be the turn of Finland, much more inclined to a markedly environmentalist agenda. The use of community funds to accelerate the ecological transition may be the most convincing instrument to change the minds of the most reticent countries.

As a counterbalance, a group of environment ministers from a dozen countries – including Spain, France and Italy – signed a letter this month calling on the Commission to be ambitious to achieve an end to emissions in 2050.

Germany, the great European industrial power broke its silence on Wednesday afternoon to give its support to the Commission: “The European strategy fits well with our climate protection plan,” endorsed the Minister of Environment, Svenja Schulze. The Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, joined his supporters. In an intervention in the European Parliament he showed his happiness by the climatic impulse that the Commission is looking for.

The biggest problem, transportation. While emissions from agriculture, industry, buildings or waste have gone down, in the case of transport, which accounts for 27% of total emissions, they travel in the opposite direction, especially in the case of aviation and maritime transport.

Employers of the sector such as CLEPA, which groups automotive component manufacturers, say they are willing to join the change of model. “Great efforts will be required from all of society, including the transport sector, European suppliers fully agree with the commitments made in the Paris Agreement,” they said in a statement on Wednesday.

The search for investors, Brussels will encourage the transformation towards an emissions-free economy, but its success will depend to a large extent on the private sector. The European Commission estimates that between 175,000 and 290,000 million euros per year of investment are needed to cover the new energy infrastructures. In return, expect a huge savings of between two and three billion euros in oil imports, and 200,000 million euros in healthcare costs.

Despite the difficulties on the horizon, the political signal launched by the EU puts it at the forefront of global ambition. Given that its weight in the global emissions mix is relatively small it currently accounts for 10% of the totals, the intention is for others to follow the European example. “We have many challenges ahead, but I will tell you something: the status quo is no longer an option, the implications of not controlling climate change have already been seen,” warns Cañete.