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By 2030, 55% reduction in emissions across Europe compared to 1990: that is the EU’s goal that it wants to achieve with the plans presented on Wednesday 14-07-2021. Especially the transport sector and polluting industries such as steel and cement are being tackled. We list the most important plans.

No more petrol or diesel in 2035

The biggest shock for many ‘petrolheads’: in less than 15 years, cars and small vans will no longer be allowed to emit CO2. That means the end of the fossil fuel engine on diesel and petrol. All new cars must therefore quickly become fully electric. Most car makers now have electric models, and brands such as Volkswagen have committed to fully switch to electric vehicles as soon as possible. However, a lot still needs to be done in a short period of time to not only achieve the goal, but also to ensure that it runs smoothly. For example, there must be many more charging stations throughout Europe: four million extra. The autonomy and towing capacity of cars will also have to increase, so that people can also travel with their beloved caravans. At the moment this is still difficult with electric cars.

No free CO rights for steel and cement

The most polluting industries in Europe must quickly reduce their emissions. Steel and cement factories can still emit a large part of CO2 free of charge because these emissions are exempt from the emissions trading system (ETS), the exchange for greenhouse gases in Europe. These free emission rights will expire at an accelerated pace, to ensure that these sectors also emit less in the future. Aviation will also have to adhere more to the trading system. The plans coincide with a general tightening of the ETS, which has been initiated since 2018. For a long time, the CO2 price was far too low in this system, but that is different now. On the way to 2030 and 2050, CO2 will become much more expensive.

Support fund for those left behind

A higher CO2 price leads to higher prices for consumers and companies. This can create an unfair playing field – especially for countries that still emit a relatively large amount of CO2, for example because the power comes from coal-fired power stations. A fund of EUR 10 billion per year will be set up to prevent excessive differences in costs. The expectation is that this money will mainly go to countries in Central and Eastern Europe. This is also a matter of concern for various parties in the European Parliament. They are afraid that this fund will mainly benefit those countries, while other parties can also put the money to good use.

CO2 tax at the border

Perhaps the most controversial new proposal on the list: a carbon tax at the EU border. In this way, the CO2 emissions that arise abroad for goods used in Europe must also be taxed. It means, for example, that Chinese steel will become more expensive, just like American soy. The measure works in two ways: it can force companies outside the EU to become more sustainable, or it can make Europe’s more sustainable companies more attractive. In this way, the Swedish SSAB, which is working on fossil-free steel, can compete with the cheaper steel from China.

The European plans still have to be approved by all individual member states. That can be quite difficult, because a lot of different parties have objections. But member states have endorsed the 2050 climate targets, and the 2030 interim targets are needed to meet that final target. Therefore, for each rejected measure, a new one must be imagined that prevents the same amount of CO2 emissions. What the eventual climate plans will look like will therefore become clear in the coming months.


Marc Seijlhouwer, De EU-plannen voor duurzaamheid komen vandaag. Dit zijn de belangrijkste, in: Change Inc, 14-07-2021,