Zuhal Demir will test the European “Fit for 55” for feasibility and affordability

14 July 2021
Zuhal Demir

“No doubt an applause machine is already getting going on some benches, but we will first thoroughly test the Fit for 55 package against our three criteria: ambitious, feasible and affordable.” This is Flemish Energy Minister Zuhal Demir’s response to the publication by the European Commission of the Fit for 55 package, in which a series of proposals on energy and the climate are bundled.

A long wait for clarity

In December 2020, the European heads of state and government leaders already agreed that the European Climate Target for 2030 would be increased to a reduction of 55% compared to 2005. At the end of April 2021, European negotiators reached a political agreement on the European Climate Law in which this 55% target was also anchored, even though it was not yet clear at the time exactly how this target would be achieved.

Who is going to pay for it?

Minister Demir still has a lot of questions regarding the European targets. “Flanders has long been pressing for more clarity about the impact of the increased European climate target that was decided last year by the European Council of heads of state and government leaders. Who will bear the costs of the increased level of ambition? What are the implications for the energy bills of households and jobs in our country? All these pertinent questions were always left unanswered during bidding for the European climate percentages. Our proposals to base the distribution on cost efficiency were also not included in the texts at the time.”

Now that the Fit for 55 package has been published, a proposal is on the table that maps the impact of the increased target for everyone. Also, for Flemish families and the jobs in our country. “Flanders will therefore thoroughly analyse the more than 3,800 pages of proposals and impact analysis,” she says.

Cause for concern

With a sharp increase in Belgium’s greenhouse gas reduction target to -47% by 2030 (currently this target is still a 35% reduction by 2030 compared to 2005), the introduction of a carbon price for every Flemish person with a car and a house, and additional solidarity mechanisms that ensure the affordability of climate policy in other countries, there is already cause for concern.

Distribution of emission reduction mainly based on GDP The gross domestic product (GDP) is the total monetary value of all goods and services produced within a country, both by companies and the government. This term is usually used as a benchmark for a country’s prosperity. This is why the N-VA closely follows the evolution of the Belgian GDP. GDP per inhabitant

The European Commission proposes a stricter emission reduction for Belgium for the non-ETS sectors of -47% by 2030 compared to 2005. That is a significant increase from the current target, which sets an emission reduction of -35% for the same period. The Flemish Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (VEKP) is also based on an emission reduction of -35% by 2030 compared to 2005. The new documents state that the distribution is mainly based on GDP per capita and less on cost efficiency.

Difficult discussions expected at the European level

Today we are only talking about proposals from the European Commission. This is far from being settled legislation. Before this is actually “decided policy”, there is still a whole process to go through. The European Council and the European Parliament must each consider it individually, after which discussions start with the European Commission in order to reach a final agreement. That will take at least a year and possibly much longer.

“We will not sit still in the meantime and will therefore continue to focus on implementing the measures provided for in the VEKP. There is still a lot of work to be done, and we are continuing to work on that,” Zuhal Demir says.

“After all, the discussions promise to be extremely difficult at the European level, which may take more than a year. I suspect that the discussions within Belgium will run more smoothly. I am going to assume that the colleagues of the other governments, who have been the loudest about increasing the level of ambition, will just as voluntarily take up the effort after today,” Zuhal Demir concludes.

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