Last week, the European Commission unveiled a detailed plan to slash dependency on fossil fuels and transform the bloc into a green powerhouse by the middle of this century. The climate plan has been hailed as the most ambitious and sweeping of any major economy. While the European Union might be the first, all nations will need to craft climate action blueprints to avert a future of increasingly severe weather disasters and rising sea levels. The commission unveiled 12 policies that chart how members aim to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and reduce average greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels. According to the United Nations, 131 countries have now set or are considering a target of reducing emissions to net zero by mid-century. This is to be applauded, but the economic realities of achieving net zero emissions in little more than a generation are daunting.
Getting there requires rethinking and re-engineering entire economies. That is a complex and politically risky exercise, especially if the costs fall heavily on some sectors and the poorest in society. The EU's climate plan focuses on a number of pillars for action. These include expanding its emissions trading scheme to cover more sectors and reducing the number of free pollution permits; tougher pollution regulations for industry and transport; putting a price on the carbon content of emissions-intensive imports; and more rules and incentives to increase investment in renewable energy and low-emissions technologies.