EU backtracks on green? Party Pushes for combustion engine future

The European Union’s largest political party is set to urge the bloc to revise its car emissions rules in order to keep the combustion engine alive pa
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Internal combsution engine
EU's largest political party is set to urge the bloc to revise its car emissions rules in order to keep the combustion engine alive past 2035 (REUTERS)
Internal combsution engine
EU's largest political party is set to urge the bloc to revise its car emissions rules in order to keep the combustion engine alive past 2035

The European Union’s largest political party is set to urge the bloc to revise its car emissions rules in order to keep the combustion engine alive past 2035 as it aims to boost industrial competitiveness during the ambitious green shift.

The European People’s Party will reaffirm its backing for the EU’s binding goals to cut greenhouse gases by 55 per cent this decade from 1990 levels and to reach climate neutrality by the middle of the century. But it wants the bloc to do more to protect its companies and households, according to a draft strategy for the next five years seen by Bloomberg.

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To highlight the new focus, the EPP wants to turn the Green Deal into a “Green Growth Deal," says the plan, which the party will discuss at a gathering this week in Cascais, Portugal.

“We support the climate targets but we want to achieve them with less bureaucracy and more technological openness," said Peter Liese, German lawmaker coordinating environmental issues in the EPP. “We need to help the industry and enable people to cope with the regulations."

The document is to be approved by the group’s leaders on Thursday after voters’ concerns about the costs of the green shift helped boost conservative and far-right parties in EU-wide elections in June.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, an EPP member who was nominated by EU leaders for a second term, was a champion of the Green Deal, but has become less vocal about her record as she pursues confirmation by the European Parliament later this month.

In its five-point plan for Europe, the EPP is also poised to call for stronger defense, stopping illegal migration, bolstering the region’s economy and trade, and making the EU more efficient and democratic.

The group’s stance will be crucial for defining the way forward for the EU’s green transformation at a time when nationalist parties in countries including Germany and Poland are calling for a halt to climate reforms. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and its allies dominated the first round of elections two days ago, getting 33.2 per cent of the vote.

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The rise of populism risks weakening the resolve of governments when it comes to turning pledges into legislation aimed at reaching the 2030 carbon-reduction goal in areas such as transport, heating and agriculture. The EPP, which last year opposed a regulation that requires new passenger cars to have zero emissions after 2035, will now push for a revision that could save the combustion engine.

The goal would be to fully embed in the law a pledge sought by Germany to allow room for cars running solely on so-called e-fuels after 2035. That technology would offer an alternative to electric vehicles, whose environmental impact should also be analyzed for the entire life cycle, according to the EPP. The amendments could be introduced as part of a review of the regulation originally planned for 2026.

“I think we need a legal change and it would be good if Commission President Ursula von der Leyen would advance the review close and put forward the proposal as soon as possible," Liese told reporters on Tuesday in Brussels. “If it’s 2026 it’s better than never, if it’s done in 2025 it’s even better."

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Another change in climate regulations recommended by Liese is the inclusion of technical carbon removals, based on technologies such as capturing CO2 from the air, in the EU Emissions Trading System.

At the same time, he warned against delaying the introduction of a new carbon market for road transport and heating fuels, which some politicians fear will drive energy bills for consumers and risk backlash from voters. Postponing the start of the cap-and-trade program from 2027 will make the 2030 climate goal unattainable, according to Liese.

He also said the EU should postpone a regulation to tackle deforestation beyond its borders from the start of 2025 to the start of 2027 and use the time for a revision that would reduce the bureaucratic burden.

First Published Date: 03 Jul 2024, 19:36 PM IST
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