European Commission: new zero-emission cars from 2035

  Fuels, NEWS & INTERVIEWS, Sustainable Mobility, Technical innovation

The proposal is part of a package of measures embracing climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation

All new cars registered as of 2035 must ensure zero emissions. These measures are envisaged in the package of proposals ratified by the European Commission last 14 July. The aim is to ensure that European Union policies in climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation fields will be able to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The attainment of this objective is intended to implement the European Green Deal, whereby Europe aims to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The proposals presented by the Commission will ensure “the necessary acceleration for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade” and also “achieve the objectives defined by European climate legislation”.

The emissions trading system in the EU (ETS) sets a price for carbon and every year reduces the maximum limit applicable to emissions in certain economic sectors: the Commission proposes an even lower general emission limit and an increase in the annual reduction rate; furthermore, free emission allowances for aviation would be phased out and emissions from shipping would be included in the ETS for the first time.

Member states, on their part, will be required to spend all the revenue from emission trading on climate and energy related projects. The Effort Sharing Regulation gives each Member State even tighter emission reduction targets for buildings, road and inland shipping, agriculture, waste and small industries.

Regulations concerning land use, forestry and agriculture, on the other hand, set a general EU target for the absorption of carbon from natural wells of 310 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030; by 2035, the EU expects to achieve climate neutrality in fields including land use, forestry and agriculture, as well as agricultural emissions other than carbon dioxide, such as those arising from the use of fertilizers and livestock. In particular, the forestry strategy includes a programme to plant three billion trees across Europe by 2030.

As regards the Renewable Energy Directive, the goal is to produce 40% of European energy from renewable sources by 2030 by strengthening sustainability criteria for the use of bio-energy. The Energy Efficiency Directive will set an even more ambitious and binding annual target for reducing energy consumption on a European scale: specifically, the public sector will be required to renovate 3% of its buildings every year.

In the road transport sector, EU Commission proposals require that emissions by new cars be cut by 55% from 2030 and down to 100% from 2035 compared to 2021 levels; the review of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation will therefore require Member States to increase charging capacity in line with sales of zero-emission passenger cars and install recharging and refuelling points at regular intervals along major motorways.

The Infrastructure Regulation for Alternative Fuels envisages access to clean electricity in major ports and airports for ships and aeroplanes: in more detail, the “ReFuelEU Aviation” initiative will oblige fuel suppliers to increase the proportion of sustainable aviation fuels while the “FuelEU Maritime” initiative will set an upper limit on the greenhouse gas content of energy used by ships using European ports.

The review of the energy taxation directive proposes aligning taxation of energy products with EU energy and climate policies. A new border carbon adjustment mechanism has also been envisaged which will set a carbon price for imports to help cut global emissions: an environmental customs duty which would encourage environmental policies in third countries and avoid the delocalization abroad of European production with the aim of exploiting less severe environmental legislation. The mechanism will come into force in 2026 and will cover cement, steel, aluminium, fertilizer and electricity sectors.

The Commission highlighted that these measures will be taken “to ensure a transition that makes Europe fair, green and competitive”. Lastly, in this respect, a new Social Climate Fund was proposed with the aim of allocating specific funds to Member States to help citizens invest in energy efficiency, new heating and cooling systems and cleaner mobility. This fund would be financed from the EU budget, using 25% of the revenue from emission trading from construction and road transport fuel sectors. Member States would then be allocated €72.2 billion for the period 2025-2032.

“The fossil fuel-based economy has reached its limits. We want to leave a healthy planet to the next generation, as well as good jobs and growth that does not harm nature,” said the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who added: “The European Green Deal is a strategy for growth that is moving towards a carbon-free economy. Europe is leading the debate on climate policies through innovation, investment and social compensation”.