13th Aug 2022

MEPs debate crucial 'Fit for 55' laws ahead of vote

Listen to article

The European Parliament will vote on a crucial set of laws on Wednesday (8 June) that form the heart of Fit for 55, the EU's landmark strategy designed to bring carbon emissions down by 55 percent by 2030. 

Files up for a vote include a ban on combustion engines by 2035; the introduction of a carbon tax on cars and vans and heating in homes; a border levy on goods imported into Europe, and a social fund to help vulnerable households pay the higher energy and fuel bills associated to the plan. 

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Plenary votes often follow the responsible committee votes, but most of the dossiers have proven controversial during negotiations the past months and many of the original EU Commission proposals have already been watered down. It remains unclear if the proposed compromises will able to get a majority. 

Social fund

The social climate fund is one of the few proposals garnering broad support across the political spectrum and is expected to pass largely as EU climate commissioner and vice-president Frans Timmerman's conceived it. 

The fund is intended as a subsidy for citizens who want to invest in solar panels, heat pumps or to help insulate their homes. It can also be used to finance part of the increased fuel and electricity bills. 

"We have to ensure people don't have to choose between paying their electricity bills and eating. That is why we are proposing a social climate fund," lead rapporteur Esther de Lange, MEP for the European People's Party, said on Tuesday. 

It is financed out of the so-called Emissions Trading System (ETS), but it is still unclear what way the vote will swing on this crucial part of Fit for 55. 

Industry in the EU has to pay for credits to be allowed to emit carbon dioxide. The commission has proposed extending this to households and vehicles, which would create a new income stream to prop up the social fund, but also lead to higher fuel and energy bills. 

Timmermans, defending his plan to MEPs on Tuesday, said wealthier homes would carry the bulk of the costs, which could be used to help poor households. 

But due to already spiking energy costs, many political groups, including the Greens and Socialists & Democrats , opposed the plan, instead pushing a compromise to limit it to commercial buildings for now. 

This would "cut the social fund in half," Timmermans said, limiting the EU's striking power to alleviate energy bills for vulnerable households.  

Banning combustion engines

Another controversial file up for a vote is the proposed ban on combustion engines by 2035 in cars and vans.

The Greens, the Social Democrats, the Left and the liberal Renew Europe group all support this, but a compromise could not be reached in the environment (ENVI) committee due to opposition from the EPP , who want to limit the ban to 90 percent of all cars. 

This would allow certain cars to continue driving on so-called replacement fuels like biofuels or hydrogen. 

Commissioner Timmermans described this proposal as "nonsense" due to the high costs associated with biofuel and hydrogen. 

"The car industry already made its choice," he said. "They are on board for electric cars and vans." 

It is unclear if a majority for the ban in 2035 will be found in parliament.

Carbon border tax

Arguably the most complex piece of legislation up for a vote on Wednesday is the so-called Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), a proposed carbon tax on imported goods which is planned to come into force in 2026.

It mirrors the EU's landmark "cap-and-trade scheme" for carbon emissions (ETS). 

The current plan includes a phase-out of free allowances for industrial producers in 2030, incentivising the move to greener production modes while protecting it against unfair competition from regions with laxer environmental rules. 

Mohammed Chahim, an S&D MEP, recently led the file through the ENVI committee. Still, it is unclear if a majority will support the plan on Wednesday. 

The EPP oppose the proposal because they want the withdrawal of emission allowances to be postponed. 

That is a plan Green MEP Bas Eickhout said will undermine innovative green industries in the EU because "free allowances are a fossil fuel subsidy" and protects industries that do not want to change.  

What's in the EU's second 'Fit for 55' package?

The European Commission is expected to unveil the second part of the 'Fit for 55' package – including proposals for joint gas-purchases, improving buildings' energy performance, boosting green mobility, and mitigating the impact of the transition on poor households.


Why 'Fit for 55' isn't fit for purpose

In a worst-case scenario, the EU's climate policies would exclude developing nations from international trade, forcing them to trade with each other, forming economic and environmental 'ghettos' while the wealthy West enjoys the benefits of free trade and clean energy.


Interview: 'Carbon tax' MEP with one eye on Mozambique

Dutch MEP Mohammed Chahim is rapporteur forthe proposed carbon tax on imported goods which is planned to come into force in 2026. It is one of the biggest and most complex legislative proposals Europe has ever drawn up.

Brazil pitches itself as answer to Ukraine war food shortages

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is pitching his Latin American country as the answer to the world food crisis following the war in Ukraine. The traditional wheat importer has now exported three million tonnes of the grain so far in 2022.


Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us