How a green future could look like

A Volkswagen ID.3 electric car is charged in Dresden, eastern Germany on Sept 11, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

(BLOOMBERG) - It's just after 5pm on Friday in late July 2035. You're driving home from work in your electric car. It's peaceful - more cars than ever run on a quiet battery, too.

It was a good week. You're two months into an apprenticeship programme learning how to maintain wind turbines. Things were pretty rough for a few years after the factory where you used to make parts for internal combustion engines laid you off because the government banned new fossil-fuelled cars.

But now you've joined a scheme that helps people find jobs in green industries. That's just a glimpse of the future in store if the policies contained in the European Union's Fit for 55 climate package become reality.

The plan, which could require a trillion euros of investment, will be the most radical change to European economy since the creation of the euro and put the continent on a path to reach net-zero emissions by the mid-century.

If the plans succeed, it will force Europeans to remake almost every aspect of the way they live, work and travel.

On that day in July, 14 years from now, a panel on the wall in the downstairs hall beeps as you walk through the front door. It's set to tell you when an energy-generation record has been broken by the community solar panels powering your neighbourhood.

The beeps are a regular occurrence in the summer. As always, you log today's kilowatt-number into the carbon footprint app on your phone. Fireworks explode on the screen. You did it! You've earned enough points for a €10 grocery voucher.

When the sun wasn't shining quite as much earlier in the year, your electric car was picking up the slack. You've been using it as a battery to store electricity and sell it back to the grid when wind and solar farms aren't producing enough. The money's finally come in; it's going straight into your vacation fund.

You open another app to check on your savings. You opted to have all your accounts managed in a "socially responsible" way a decade ago when the EU introduced strict rules on what count as green investments. That was one of the smartest decisions you've made, you're getting higher returns than your friends who haven't made the switch.

For dinner, you chuck two pizzas into the oven. They're made with organic wheat, thanks to an EU target to have a quarter of all agricultural land farmed without pesticides. Even the vegan cheese has improved a lot since the early 2000s.

With so many of your friends following plant-based diets, it was starting to become embarrassing being the only one ordering beef burgers.

There's no time for an elaborate meal tonight because the family's busy packing for a holiday to Rotterdam tomorrow. A decade ago, you loved flying to Greek islands, but since the government increased carbon taxes on airlines, it's too expensive, so you're taking the train across Europe instead.

Rotterdam used to be one of the most polluted cities in Europe, but since the EU brought in new regulations on shipping, it's become a tourist hot spot. You love sitting in the cafes at the harbour or wandering round the old town.

At the railway station the next day, advertisements on the platform proudly declare that the train you're taking will be powered entirely by green hydrogen by 2050. It's already running on fuel cells today, but that was generated mainly from burning natural gas. In 15 years, the fuel will be made completely using renewable energy sources.

The journey is long and the children squabble most of the way over who should get the window seat. You tune them out and open your laptop to check your e-mail. It's an old model from seven years ago, but it still works like new. It's much easier to fix things now that the EU has forced companies to end practices that make their gadgets obsolete.

When you finally arrive at the hotel, via an electric taxi, the concierge happily talks up the property's features. It was built last year out of green steel and concrete. The pool is heated with a hydrogen boiler. You look up at the facade of the building - a living wall covered in plants - and take a deep breath. You have a feeling this is going to be a great vacation.

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