Updated Jul 15, 2021

New EU climate change plans

The European Union has announced new climate change legislation, with the focus on pushing towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

12 draft proposals were announced this week, and include plans to tax jet fuel and ban the sale of petrol and diesel-powered cars within 20 years. The measures will still need to be approved by the bloc's 27 Member States and the EU Parliament, but are likely to face months of negotiations.

The plans have not been universally well received at the European Commission, the bloc's administrative arm, with concern that the proposals could increase household heating bills as well as the cost of flights in the EU, although financial assistance will be available for people to install insulation and make long-term changes to their homes.

"We're going to ask a lot of our citizens," EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said. "We're also going to ask a lot of our industries, but we do it for good cause. We do it to give humanity a fighting chance."

Opposition is also very likely to come from industry leaders, such as airlines and vehicle manufacturers, as well as the eastern Member States that still heavily rely on coal.

Key proposals

The proposals are the EU's most ambitious plans yet to tackle climate change, and include:

  • tighter emission limits for cars, which will effectively end new petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2035;
  • tax on aviation fuel, and a 10-year tax holiday for low-carbon alternatives;
  • a so-called 'carbon border tariff', which would require manufacturers from outside the EU to pay more for importing materials like steel and concrete;
  • more ambitious targets for expanding renewable energy around the bloc;
  • a requirement for countries to renovate buildings that are not deemed energy efficient more quickly.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commented:

"By acting now we can do things another way and choose a better, healthier and more prosperous way for the future.

"It is our generational task to secure the wellbeing of not only our generation, but of our children and grandchildren. Europe is ready to lead the way."