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#GlobalWarming - #EESC calls for new tax measures to reduce and remove CO2 from the atmosphere

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The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has underlined the fact that taxes on carbon dioxide emissions will not be enough to reduce CO2 sufficiently and says that there is a need to adopt a symmetrical approach to taxation that promotes the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

New taxes and additional measures on CO2 emissions will help, but will not be sufficient: global warming is likely to continue unless already-emitted CO2 can be taken out of the atmosphere. In the opinion drafted by Krister Andersson and adopted at the July plenary session, the Committee highlights the fact that a new system is needed, whereby CO2 emissions are not only taxed and therefore discouraged, but emissions that are already in the atmosphere can be removed, stored and used for other purposes.

Commenting during the plenary, Andersson said: "It is important to use taxation to reach Europe's climate neutrality goals, but there is a need for additional tools. It would be efficient if, as well as being able to reduce CO2 emissions, we could also remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This is why we are calling for a symmetrical taxation approach based on this strategy: tax revenues from CO2 taxes could be used to compensate activities that remove CO2 from the atmosphere."

The EESC also recommends developing, through dedicated investments, new technologies at EU and national level, allowing for carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as carbon capture and utilization (CCU). These measures would be a further step towards reducing the impact of CO2 emissions, thereby adhering to the sustainable development goals of the UN and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Committee also points to land management practices which should be encouraged and supported, in the EU and in the member states, such as focusing on forests. Expanding, restoring and correctly managing forests can leverage the power of photosynthesis to tackle CO2 and should be compensated by applying a negative tax rate. Forests remove carbon dioxide naturally and trees are especially good at storing carbon removed from the atmosphere. In any case, whether it is new technologies or other practices, measures should be symmetrical, efficient and implemented in a way that is socially acceptable for everybody.

According to the EESC, global warming must be addressed worldwide, comprehensively and symmetrically, taking into account current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. It would be useful to establish rules within the EU and, on this basis, embark on international discussions with other trading blocs. In future, in order to achieve an effective, symmetrical policy framework to tackle the increasing amount of CO2, new taxation measures could be put forward to supplement the current emissions trading system and national carbon taxes.

The approach followed by the European Commission in the European Green Deal with the European emissions trading system (ETS) seems to be going in the right direction and making good progress in establishing more effective carbon pricing throughout the economy. The ETS is based on the "cap and trade" principle, according to which a cap is set on the overall amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted.

The cap is reduced over time, forcing total emissions to decrease. Within the limits of the cap, companies subject to the system receive or buy emission allowances, which are tradable as needed. Such a tool should be coordinated with other, additional instruments, including a new approach to taxation in a coherent policy framework, as well as with other, similar tools implemented in other regions throughout the world.

Climate change

Infographic: Timeline of climate change negotiations

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From the Earth Summit to the Paris Agreement, discover the most important events in the history of climate change negotiations in chronological order.

The EU has been a key player in talks led by the United Nations and in 2015 committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

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Climate change

US formally quits Paris climate deal amid election uncertainty

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But the outcome of the tight US election contest will determine for how long. Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has promised to rejoin the agreement if elected.

The US still remains a party to the UNFCCC. Espinosa said the body will be “ready to assist the US in any effort in order to rejoin the Paris Agreement”.

Trump first announced his intention to withdraw the US from the pact in June 2017, arguing it would undermine the country’s economy.

The Trump administration formally served notice of the withdrawal to the United Nations on November 4, 2019, which took one year to take effect.

The departure makes the US the only country of 197 signatories to have withdrawn from the agreement, hashed out in 2015.

‘Lost opportunity’

Current and former climate diplomats said the task of curbing global warming to safe levels would be tougher without the financial and diplomatic might of the US.

“This will be a lost opportunity for a collective global fight against climate change,” said Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, chair of the African Group of Negotiators in global climate talks.

A US exit would also create a “significant shortfall” in global climate finances, Gahouma-Bekale said, pointing to an Obama-era pledge to contribute $3bn to a fund to help vulnerable countries tackle climate change, of which only $1bn was delivered.

“The challenge to close the global ambition gap becomes much, much harder in the short term,” said Thom Woodroofe, a former diplomat in UN climate talks, now a senior adviser at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

However, other major emitters have doubled down on climate action even without guarantees the US will follow suit. China, Japan and South Korea have all pledged in recent weeks to become carbon neutral – a commitment already made by the European Union.

Those pledges will help drive the huge low-carbon investments needed to curb climate change. If the US were to re-enter the Paris accord, it would give those efforts “a massive shot in the arm”, Woodroofe said.

European and US investors with a collective $30 trillion in assets on Wednesday urged the country to quickly rejoin the Paris Agreement and warned the country risked falling behind in the global race to build a low-carbon economy.

Scientists say the world must cut emissions sharply this decade in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

The Rhodium Group said in 2020, the US will be at about 21 percent below 2005 levels. It added that under a second Trump administration, it expects US emissions would increase by more than 30 percent through 2035 from 2019 levels.

Obama’s White House had pledged to cut US emissions to 26-28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels under the Paris deal.

Biden is broadly expected to ramp up those goals if elected. He has promised to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 under a sweeping $2 trillion plan to transform the economy.

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2030 Climate Target Plan: Commission invites initial feedback on four future legislative proposals

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The Commission has published its Inception Impact Assessments on four central pieces of European climate legislation, due to be adopted in June 2021 to implement the 2030 Climate Target Plan. These four future proposals will help to deliver on the European Green Deal and achieve the proposed new emissions reductions target of at least 55% by 2030. The Inception Impact Assessments on the EU Emissions Trading System, the Effort Sharing Regulation, the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation and CO2 standards for cars are now open for public feedback for four weeks, until Thursday, 26 November 2020. They set out the potential nature and scope of the revisions for each of these policy instruments and of the analysis that the Commission will carry out in the coming months. This initial feedback period will be followed in due course by further Open Public Consultations.

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