EU climate chief: rising energy prices should drive transition

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union’s climate czar said Tuesday that the 27-nation bloc must ensure that the most vulnerable people …

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union’s climate czar said Tuesday that the 27-nation bloc should ensure that the most vulnerable people do not pay the highest price for the green transition, and promised measures to ensure the equitable distribution of the burden on the entire society, in the midst of a global crisis. rising energy prices.

“The only thing we cannot afford is for the social side to oppose the climate side. I see this threat very clearly now that we have a discussion about rising prices in the energy sector, ”said Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of climate issues.

As global gas demand has exploded, energy prices have exploded across Europe at a time when the EU is pushing for a rapid phase-out of coal and the development of sustainable energy sources. Carbon prices have skyrocketed in recent months, affecting electricity bills.

“Only about a fifth of the price increase can be attributed to the increase in Co2 prices. The other is simply a consequence of the shortage in the market, ”said Timmermans, noting that prices for renewables have remained low and stable.

Timmermans spoke in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, during a debate on proposed legislation aimed at helping the bloc cut emissions of the gases that cause global warming by at least 55% by 2030.

Timmermans said price hikes in the energy sector should lead the bloc to accelerate the transition to renewables. He noted that if the transition had started earlier, the current situation would not have arisen because countries would be less dependent on fossil fuels and natural gas.

The commission’s proposals included in the “Fit for 55 package” unveiled this summer encompass about a dozen major proposals, ranging from the de facto phase out of gasoline and diesel cars by 2035 to new levies on gas from the US. heating of buildings.

They involve a renewal of the bloc’s emissions trading program, under which companies pay for the carbon dioxide they emit and introduce taxes on shipping and aviation fuels for the first time.

Timmermans said the proposals by the EU executive branch, which should be endorsed by EU countries and approved by Parliament, will give the 27 members the opportunity to introduce measures that protect their citizens, including reducing the VAT taxes, energy tariffs or direct support to households. .

While some lawmakers raised concerns about the plan’s impact on energy prices, green lawmaker Ska Keller said public subsidies for fossil fuels should immediately end in an accelerated switch to renewables.

Pascal Canfin, chairman of Parliament’s environmental committee, praised the proposal to end gasoline and diesel cars, but expressed skepticism at the idea of ​​expanding the EU carbon market to transport and buildings.

“Because we believe that the political cost is extremely high and the climate impact is very low,” he said.

Putting a price on emissions from buildings and transportation has raised concerns that the move could trigger social protests across Europe similar to the “yellow vest” movement that began in France in 2018 after a fuel tax hike. .

World leaders agreed six years ago in Paris to work to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F) by the end of the century. . Scientists say both targets will be missed by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to cut emissions.

“I think we can still fix it,” Timmermans said. “I think we can prevent the climate crisis from spiraling out of control and out of control.”

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