July 14, 2021 will be remembered as the day Europe challenged the world to reduce and eventually end its use of fossil fuels over the next nine years. 

Both environmentalists and industrialists received the European Union’s recent announcement of a climate change blueprint positively.  The blueprint is seen to have a lasting impact on both the regional and global economies. It is also hailed as both a godsend and an issue which may have lasting repercussions on international trade relations.

Touted as a “Green New Deal” for the EU, this ambitious proposal will entail an increase in the price of carbon, essentially deterring heavy industry – automaking, in particular – from making vehicles and other machines that heavily rely on fossil fuels.

According to Ottmar Edenhofer, director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, this comprehensive proposal was created in response to the alarming weather extremes currently being experienced throughout the world. 

“Strong action is key now,” he says, opining that such measures are necessary to create a safer, more eco-friendly future. The proposal is also expected to reduce the rising costs of dealing with environmental disasters in the long term. 

Not without cost

The reduced usage of fossil fuels is one thing, but people in the heavy industries sector have expressed concerns as to how these new measures will affect the world in terms of industrial and economic growth.

The measures stipulated in the EU proposal call for the imposition of higher tariffs on products imported from countries with less comprehensive laws on climate protection and putting a stop to the sale (and production) of vehicles running on gas or diesel over a 14-year-period on top of putting a heftier price tag on traditional fuels. This, according to critics, needs to be addressed properly due to its implications on the automotive industry and regional employment.

The EU is also mulling a cross-border carbon tax, but officials from Turkey and Russia have called for further studies, again citing economic and diplomatic repercussions.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen finds the proposal a timely act, stating that the fossil fuel economy has finally reached its limit.

If ratified and set into motion, the 27-country EU collectively aims to become a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. At present, the European Commission has already signed into law its plan to decrease greenhouse emissions by 55% by 2030.

Posing a challenge

As good as this sounds, numerous critics are keeping a skeptical eye on developments, citing the difficulty the EU faces in trying to implement these measures among its politically- and economically-diverse member nations.

Likewise, the proposal has also set the climate-concerns bar high for other countries that need to step up their game with regard to addressing environmental issues.

The United Kingdom, which is set to host the COP-26 climate talks in November, has already stated its intention to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 68%. 

While President Joe Biden has stated that the United States ought to be a leader in the fight against climate change, the country has set itself a more modest goal of reducing emissions by 40 to 43% by 2030.