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Vulcan Insight | Weather extremes highlight need for rapid action on “Fit for 55”

As record fires, floods and temperatures continue to hit countries across Europe, the recent adverse weather events highlight the urgent need for EU legislators to act on the European Commission’s recent “Fit for 55” climate and energy package. 

Just as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, flanked by her climate czar, Frans Timmermans and other Commissioners, large swaths of Western Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands experienced the most devastating floods in recent memory killing dozens. Two weeks later, as most of Europe travels southward for their summer holidays, record temperatures of close to 50 degrees have caused extensive forest fires to engulf parts of Italy, Greece, Turkey and Finland.

This summer’s record weather extremes, which have also hit North America and China with devastating effects over the past weeks, highlight the European Commission’s focus on the tacking climate change and the need for EU legislators to urgently get working on the legislative package. Consisting of a compilation of twelve legislative proposals, the “Fit for 55” package aims to rewrite the EU’s energy and mobility rules to achieve the ambitious target of reducing the Union’s carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990, and full decarbonisation by 2050 as set out in the European climate law.

In all, the objective is to keep the rate of the global warming “well below 2 degrees and preferably below 1.5 degrees,” compared to pre-industrial levels as agreed upon in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

While the Commission’s plans to radically green the mobility systems and invest in green energy, if implemented in time, should achieve this, it will still only mitigate the worst effects of the changing climate on citizens and businesses. As the co-leader of the German Greens, Robert Habeck, said in a television interview this week, “the weather will not change anymore,” adding that all we can do at this point is to “slow climate change” so that we “have the time to adapt.” Referencing this summer’s stark events, he also foresees that it will only get worse as already too much CO2 has been released into the atmosphere over recent decades.

EU legislators’ work on the package will begin almost as soon as they return to Brussels after their summer recess, with most insiders expecting the legislative process, including the Parliament’s final inter-institutional negotiations with the Council, to last some two years.

While some controversial files such as the carbon border adjustment mechanism or the extension of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) to the transport and buildings sectors might take longer to negotiate than others, with the deadlines set out by the European climate law nearing, legislators cannot give themselves too much time.

Compliments of Vulcan Consulting – a member of the EACCNY.