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Fit for 55

(From L-R) Janusz Wojciechowski, agriculture commissioner of European Union; Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission; Adina Valean, transport commissioner of the E.U.; Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission; Paolo Gentiloni, economy commissioner of the E.U.; Kadri Simson, energy commissioner of the E.U.; and Virginijus Sinkevicius, environment commissioner of the E.U., attend a press conference at the unveiling of a landmark climate plan in Brussels on July 14, 2021. (Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Critics Warn EU 'Fit for 55' Proposal Could Raise Energy Bills for Europe's Poor

"We really hoped the European Commission would live up to its promise of a Green Deal that leaves no one behind, but instead this package gives energy-poor people a punch on the nose."

Brett Wilkins

As officials prepare to introduce sweeping legislation aimed at achieving the European Union's pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, environmental and social justice advocates warned Wednesday that the proposed measures could push millions of people into poverty due to high energy costs.

Part of the E.U.'s Green Deal, the European Commission says its Fit for 55 package "will enable the necessary acceleration of greenhouse gas emission reductions in the next decade" to meet the 27-nation bloc's determined contribution under the Paris agreement.

Fit for 55's proposals include:

  • Application of emissions trading to new sectors and a tightening of the existing E.U. Emissions Trading System (ETS);
  • Increased use of renewable energy;
  • Greater energy efficiency;
  • A faster roll-out of low emission transport modes and the infrastructure and fuels to support them;
  • An alignment of taxation policies with the European Green Deal objectives;
  • Measures to prevent carbon leakage; and
  • Tools to preserve and grow our natural carbon sinks.

"The fossil fuel economy has reached its limits," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. "We want to leave the next generation a healthy planet as well as good jobs and growth that does not hurt our nature."

"The European Green Deal is our growth strategy that is moving towards a de-carbonized economy," Von der Leyen added. "Europe was the first continent to declare to be climate neutral in 2050, and now we are the very first ones to put a concrete road map on the table. Europe walks the talk on climate policies through innovation, investment, and social compensation."

However, environmental and social justice advocates said Fit for 55 doesn't go far enough, and could dramatically increase energy costs for low-income Europeans.

Critics say that gains in energy efficiency will be offset by the proposed extension of the E.U. ETS program to include buildings and transport, which Friends of the Earth calls "a move that could push millions more Europeans into energy poverty, unable to pay their energy bills—risking lives and potential social backlash."

Friends of the Earth Europe energy poverty campaigner Martha Myers in a statement: "This Fit for 55 package is unfit for the just energy transition people and the planet desperately need—it will put energy-poor people in jeopardy. Increased targets to cut energy waste will help reduce carbon—but not by enough to halt the climate crisis."

"The commission's move to extend emissions trading to buildings shows a lack of solidarity—it throws low-income people into high energy price waters while offering only a swimming float of support to relieve energy poverty," Myers added.

Freek Spinnewijn, director of the European Federation of the National Organizations Working With the Homeless (FEANTSA), said that "we really hoped the European Commission would live up to its promise of a Green Deal that leaves no one behind, but instead this package gives energy-poor people a punch on the nose."

"It's one step forward, two steps backwards," said Spinnewijn. "While there are some programs for low-income people, it will overall leave them with higher energy bills or in the cold. That's just wrong."

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