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The road to emission neutrality

The development of civilization and technology have contributed to significant changes in the state of our planet. We are all becoming responsible for reducing the level of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. The climate clock is ticking relentlessly and the European Union is setting ambitious targets to be at the forefront of the global fight against climate change. Investment in innovation, stringent regulations and international cooperation are to be a model for the rest of the world. Will these beautiful phrases and ideas translate into concrete actions? In this article, we will explain what carbon neutrality is and what changes in this area await us by 2050.

What is carbon neutrality?

Carbon neutrality entails a balance between the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the amount absorbed by natural and artificial CO2 sinks. The main carbon sinks are soil, forests and oceans. Innovative technologies such as carbon capture and storage also play a role in the neutrality equation. Due to the increasing effects of CO2 emissions and climate change, both international organizations and governments around the world are adopting a variety of measures to reduce CO2 emissions. It is not only a question of protecting the environment, but also a social and economic issue. Climate change affects public health and the economy. Thus, achieving carbon neutrality requires reducing CO2 emissions while increasing the number of sinks.

Effects of CO2 emissions

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are one of the most pressing current issues, that negatively impact the global climate and the health of ecosystems. The main effect of this phenomenon is global warming, which leads to melting glaciers, rising sea and ocean levels, as well as extreme weather phenomena such as droughts, fires and hurricanes. In addition, increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere affects ocean acidification, which in turn has disastrous consequences for marine biodiversity, including coral reefs. As such, understanding the effects of CO2 emissions and actions to reduce them becomes critical to maintaining climatic and environmental stability on our planet.

Objectives of the European Union in the context of emission neutrality

The European Union is a leader in the fight against climate change. As part of the European Green Deal, the EU aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. In addition, the EU has updated its targets for reducing CO2 emissions by 2030 from 40% to at least 55%. This strategy is to serve as motivation for countries and various sectors of the economy to increase expenditures on the development of technologies that contribute to the protection of the natural environment.

Fit for 55 in 2030 package

The legislative package “Ready for 55 by 2030” includes several acts and projects related to climate and energy. It covers issues such as:

  • trading in emission allowances
  • national emission reduction targets
  • reducing emissions in the transport sector
  • carbon removal in the land use sector

This package is an attempt to approach this problem holistically, coordinating various policy areas and market mechanisms. It will enable more effective and integrated actions to reduce CO2 emissions. How is it going to be implemented?

The Emissions Trading Scheme: regulating the industry

The EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) forces companies to have an allowance for every tonne of CO2 they emit. It is a key element in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, promoting innovation through market mechanisms. The ETS system introduces an element of competition. Companies that reduce their emissions can auction off unused allowances. In turn, companies that do not meet the requirements will have to buy additional allowances, which is a financial incentive for them to reduce emissions.

Updates in the ETS system

In April 2023, updates to the ETS system were introduced, which will reduce emissions in sectors covered by the ETS to 62% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The introduced updates also tighten the criteria for companies, raising the price of allowances and placing higher requirements on corporations as regards sustainable development.

Reducing CO2 emissions in transport

The transport industry is one of the largest emitters of CO2. This includes both sea transport, civil aviation and even road transport. That is why further initiatives are being implemented to increase fuel efficiency and popularize eco-friendly drives in transport.

Civil aviation

The EU has decided to change the aviation emissions allowance trading system, starting from 2025. Particular emphasis has been placed on the use of sustainable aviation fuels, such as used cooking oil or synthetic fuels. The initiative also aims to motivate aircraft manufacturers to introduce more efficient technologies and facilitate investment in research and development in this area.

Passenger cars and vans

From 2035, all new cars produced for the European market will have to be emission-free. This includes both cars and vans. In addition, the EU plans to expand the charging and refuelling infrastructure for alternative fuels. This is part of a broader plan that includes not only regulations, but also stimulating innovation and encouraging consumers to choose more sustainable transport options. Of course, the implementation of this postulate depends to a large extent on technological development. At the moment, over 60% of batteries for electric cars are produced in China. Will European corporations be able to catch up?

Europe’s carbon neutrality in 5 steps

  1. Emissions Trading System (ETS). This is the first and largest auction system for CO2 emission allowances in the world. It regulates emissions from around 11,000 power and manufacturing plants, representing around 40% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The system forces companies to purchase emission allowances thereby stimulating innovation in low-emission technologies.
  2. Carbon tax on imported goods. The planned border price adjustment mechanism aims to prevent carbon leakage, i.e. shifting production to countries with less stringent regulations. It acts as a financial incentive for companies both inside and outside the EU to reduce their emissions. 
  3. National goals. The EU has set various reduction targets for non-ETS sectors such as transport, agriculture and construction, which together account for around 60% of EU emissions. These goals are scaled depending on the country’s GDP and are to be achieved by 2030.
  4. Forest management. The EU plans to maximize the potential of forests as CO2 sinks. Member states are committed to better managing forests and offsetting emissions, for example through afforestation.
  5. Reducing car emissions. The European Parliament has approved stricter emission limits for new cars and vans. This is part of a broader strategy that also includes stimulating the development of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Summary: why reducing CO2 emissions is important

Achieving carbon neutrality is a key element in the fight against climate change. Reducing CO2 emissions is important not only for the protection of the environment, but also for the long-term development of humanity. The European Union is trying to set the direction for car manufacturers, as well as transport, communication and energy companies. The goal is clear: carbon neutrality in Europe. Is it a realistic goal? We will find out within the next few decades.