The era of combustion in Europe – in which coal, oil and natural gas have been the engines of its prosperous economy – has an expiration date of 2050. The European Commission proposes that the Emissions of greenhouse gases of the EU disappear by the middle of the century, which means leaving aside those fossil fuels that have triggered the growth of the West since 1950. Brussels raises, among other issues, that 80% of electricity comes from renewables in 2050 or use the taxation to fight against the dirtiest technologies. In return, the Commission defends the economic benefits of this transition for the EU.
The European Parliament called on the Commission a year ago to present a long-term strategy for the European Union (EU) to be free of these emissions by mid-century. And Brussels will present it on Wednesday. In the document, which has been accessed by EL PAÍS, it is pointed out that the policies in force in the EU will only lead to reducing these emissions by 60% by 2050. "This is not enough for the EU to contribute to the objectives of the Paris Agreement ", admits Brussels in his document. Hence, new policies are necessary and a zero emissions target is set for mid-century.
The Paris Agreement recognizes that global warming is already irreversible, therefore, the signatories are satisfied that the increase in temperature at the end of the century does not exceed a maximum increase of 1.5 to 2 degrees of increase. That is the margin to avoid the worst climatic catastrophes. Achieving that goal requires that all countries submit greenhouse gas reduction plans. Europe now accounts for 10% of global emissions.
The strategy of zero emissions in 2050 implies increasing European ambition in the war against warming; In 2009, the EU established a 2050 reduction from 80% to 95% of its emissions. Among the reasons that the Commission now gives to increase efforts is the recent report of the IPCC – the scientific team that advises the UN – in which countries are urged to act in the face of the risk of failing and not comply with what was agreed in Paris in a few decades.
The Commission tries to clear up fears when it recalls in its strategy that it can grow economically and reduce greenhouse gases at the same time. Europe has done so: between 1990 and 2016, these emissions fell by 22% in the EU while GDP grew by 54%. With his proposal, Brussels is now sending a powerful political signal. Also for sectors such as energy or transport, with the car industry already embarked on a technological race to adapt to a new transport model.
The document focuses on the benefits of this long-distance race. The total economic impacts "are positive despite the significant additional investments they require," the Commission notes. According to the calculations of Brussels, the GDP will increase by an additional 2% with the decarbonisation policies that will lead to the goal of zero emissions. And that without taking into account the economic benefit of eradicating the damage caused by climate change, that a recent official report of Brussels estimated at 240,000 million euros per year if the Paris Agreement fails.
But the good intentions that the Commission sets forth in this document must be endorsed and specified in a broad package of measures such as that which already exists for the period from now until 2030.
The Twenty-seven must still give the green light to this strategy. The predisposition seems favorable. The environment ministers of a dozen states – including Spain, France and Italy – signed a joint letter two weeks ago to the commissioner of Action for Climate and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, in which they urged him to be ambitious and meet the zero emission target in 2050. However, countries such as Germany, the European economic engine, have not spoken about it.
Once the plan obtains the approval, the community machinery will be set in motion to legislate, but with the objective of zero emissions on the horizon. The strategy for 2050 will also be discussed today in the European Parliament.
Arias Cañete stresses that the Brussels plan will also "reduce premature deaths from air pollution by more than 40%, and health costs will be reduced by 200,000 million euros annually." The Commission's calculations also forecast a huge saving thanks to the zero dependence on oil imports: in total, between two and three billion euros from 2030 to 2050.
The Commission's strategy is explicit when it deals with the transformation of the electricity sector. The reduction in costs of renewables has allowed a rapid implementation of these clean energies. By 2050, Brussels recalls that "more than 80% of electricity will come from renewable sources". To this the Commission adds another 15% from the nuclear one – which does not expel COtwo, but that has other problems related to waste – to speak of a model of free electric generation at 100% of greenhouse gases. This roadmap involves the closure of all coal and natural gas plants.
In the case of transport, where there are significant pressures from car manufacturers, the Commission does not go that far. Although the document refers to the importance of the electrification of cars and trucks, it does not close the door to "alternative fuels", such as biofuels. The document does refer to the controversial technique of capturing and storing carbon dioxide, with great social rejection. However, the Commission argues that its "deployment" is still "necessary". Brussels also stresses the importance of using taxes and subsidies as an "efficient tool for environmental policy".