EU climate plan to tackle buildings, methane and fossil fuels

climate
Eu Climate Plan To Tackle Buildings, Methane And Fossil Fuels Eu Climate Plan To Tackle Buildings, Methane And Fossil Fuels
In July, the EU became the first of the world's major emitters to map out a detailed plan to meet its climate targets over the next few decades. Photo: PA Images
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By Kate Abnett

European Union policymakers have set out a second set of proposals to cut emissions across its economy this decade and to put it on track for net-zero greenhouse gas output by 2050.

In July, the EU became the first of the world's major emitters to map out a detailed plan to meet its climate targets with legislative proposals including bigger carbon markets and a phase-out of combustion engine car sales.

The European Commission proposed a second, smaller set of regulations on Wednesday, which is focussed on buildings, methane emissions and fossil gas.

Taken together, the measures aim to ensure the EU - the world's third-largest emitter - meets its goal to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 55 per cent by 2030, from 1990 levels. By 2019, EU emissions were 24 per cent lower than in 1990.

"Europe needs to turn the page on fossil fuels and move to cleaner energy sources. This includes replacing fossil gas with renewable and low carbon gases," EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said.

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Each proposal faces months of tough talks between member states and the European Parliament before becoming law, with countries split over issues such as the role of gas in the transition and how to help fossil fuel dependent communities.

The measures proposed on Wednesday include a reform of EU gas markets, which aims to integrate low-carbon gases such as hydrogen into the network, but did not offer the firm phase-out plan for fossil gas that campaigners have called for.

'Stumbling blocks'

Europe's fossil gas consumption will need to drop in the coming decades to meet climate goals. But for now, gas provides around a quarter of EU energy - meaning countries are exposed to volatile prices, which have hit record highs in recent months.

The Commission also proposed a system to allow countries to jointly buy gas to form strategic reserves, which states including Spain have said would help them to secure supply.

In addition, officials in Brussels unveiled its first legislation to tackle emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming gas.

This proposal would force oil and gas operators in the EU to find and fix leaks of methane in their infrastructure, though it did not extend the rules to cover the companies abroad that supply most of Europe's gas.

A third proposal aimed at buildings would require EU countries to renovate millions this decade to save energy.

Roughly 85 per cent of Europe's buildings are expected to be standing in 2050. Most are heated by fossil fuels and have a poor energy performance, meaning widespread renovations are needed to bring them into line with the EU's net-zero goal.

The new proposals address "major stumbling blocks in the EU decarbonisation pathway", Simone Tagliapietra, senior fellow at think tank Bruegel, said.

The Commission also proposed rules to clamp down on environmental crime, with tougher prison terms and by classing both illegal timber trade and illegal ship recycling as such offences.

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