Monday, 19 September 2022 11:00

Frans Timmermans: From 2035, all new cars and vans registered in the EU will be zero-emission

Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Timmermans, how will the EU’s «Green Deal», if implemented by 2050, save the climate situation on the planet? Is it planned to be coordinated with India, China, the USA, Great Britain and Russia?

Frans Timmermans, European Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal: The European Green Deal is the EU’s strategy to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world. The European Green Deal is about renewable and cutting-edge technologies for the energy transition, about protecting and restoring nature, about moving to a circular economy, about improving the wellbeing of people and making sure this is a just transition where no one will be left behind. Making Europe climate-neutral will be good for people, planet and the economy.

 The EU is currently responsible for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The climate crisis is a global crisis, and each country will need to step up and reduce its own emissions. That is, after all, what we committed to in the Paris Agreement and reinforced at last year’s climate summit in Glasgow. Major emitters have a specific responsibility to ensure that we can keep global warming to the limit of 1,5 degrees.

 So we have to cooperate. In this sense, the Green Deal itself can offer solutions that could also benefit other countries’ fight against the climate crisis. International fora like the G7, G20, the climate COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, and the biodiversity COP15 in Montreal are important moments for global cooperation, and to take stock of everyone’s efforts so far to act on what we all agreed. The more international cooperation we have, the more effective our fight against the climate and biodiversity crises will be.

 

CE: You have been dealing with climate issues in the EU since 2019, how far has the European Commission managed to move in this direction during this time?

Frans Timmermans: Despite the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic, the European Union has made enormous progress on implementing the Green Deal and tackling climate issues.

 In June 2021, we agreed on the EU Climate Law. This law sets a legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction target: by 2030, we must emit at least 55% less as compared to 1990 levels. The EU Climate Law also puts our commitment to be climate-neutral by 2050 into law. And with the Fit-for-55 package presented in July 2021, we proposed a wide set of measures to reach these targets. Negotiations to adopt this package are ongoing, and we aim to finalize them by the end of the year. I am confident that the outcome will be an ambitious one. 

 Recently, we also presented plans to ensure we move towards a circular economy. We want to make sustainable products the norm in the EU. We therefore proposed new rules that will apply to almost all physical goods on the market. They should contain a minimum percentage of recycled materials, have no harmful chemicals, and be more energy efficient, for example.

 Last, but not least, in June we proposed new laws to enhance nature restoration, and significantly reduce the use of chemical pesticides. There will be binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those areas with the most potential to help tackle the climate crisis. For example, ecosystems that are good at storing carbon and areas where restoration can reduce the impact of natural disasters. We also aim to reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030, which will benefit pollinators, soil, the environment as well as our own health. These proposals are an important signal to Europe’s international partners ahead of the big biodiversity summit – the COP15 – that takes place at the end of this year in Montreal.

 All things considered, I think we are clearly making steady progress on each element of the Green Deal.

 

CE: How common is the opinion of all 27 EU countries on climate issues? Is it possible to reach consensus without infringing on the democratic and liberal values of the EU? 

Frans Timmermans:  All EU Member States agree on the fact that the climate crisis is a major challenge for our citizens, economies and the planet. And they are united in their determination to tackle this crisis: the EU Climate Law and the targets it established were agreed upon consensually and adopted unanimously.

 To pass climate legislation, all three European institutions – the Council, the Parliament, and the Commission – have to jointly agree on the proposed legislation before it can be adopted and applied. Doing so, we ensure that law-making in Europe follows a clearly defined and democratic process.

 Of course, individual circumstances in Member States differ, which is why measures to implement these laws may differ across Member States. EU legislation leaves enough flexibility for this. Take the example of energy: we have common European targets on the share of renewable energy and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but Member States are free to determine their own energy mix.

 

CE: Will the EU use gas as a replacement for petrol engines?

Frans Timmermans: No, that is very unlikely. From 2035, all new cars and vans registered in the EU must be zero-emission. We are still finalizing details in the negotiations, but we already know that the European Parliament and Member States back this target. The European Commission does not tell industry how to replace the combustion engine technologies, but it’s clear that European car makers have decided to focus on electrification. The number of plug-in electric vehicles on European roads is increasing every year. There are also other technologies to replace fossil-fuel combustion engines, such as hydrogen and even solar power. They are all allowed, as long as they comply with the emissions norms set in the legislation.

 

Thank you for the interview.

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