‘Fit for 55’ December package

‘Fit for 55’ December package

Agora #89
Pages 14 - 16

On 15 December, the European Commission presented a Fit complement for 55 proposals, including an "energy, climate and nature protection" package and the revision of the directive on the energy performance of buildings.

On 15 December, the European Commission presented additional Fit for 55 proposals, including an “energy, climate and nature protection” package, and the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Compared to the release of the first part of the package in July, the socio-economic and political context has changed considerably.  The COP26 highlighted the importance to deliver socially-just and climate-ambitious proposals at a time when the critical limit of a temperature rise by 1.5ºC seems to be slipping away. Energy price hikes that severely affect EU citizens drew attention to the social effects of the energy transition, even if these are not directly related to decarbonisation efforts. The second part of the “Fit for 55” package was also seen as an opportunity to alleviate such concerns and at the same time accelerate a green and just transition.

The Commission proposes to recast the existing gas market rules which now mainly focus on natural gas to also cover renewable and low-carbon gases as well as hydrogen. This includes a regulation and a directive on the internal markets for renewable and natural gases and for hydrogen with new definitions of renewable and low-carbon gases (including hydrogen), their certification and common rules for injecting renewable and low-carbon gases into existing gas infrastructure.

With regards to the importance of hydrogen production and transport in several economic sectors, new rules for dedicated hydrogen networks are also part of the proposal, including adjusted rules regarding unbundling, third party access and tariffs. As think tank 3GE noted, the package should avoid any reference to the blending of hydrogen and fossil gas, which would risk supporting an inefficient use of hydrogen that should only be targeted to decarbonising end uses where no alternatives exist.

As regards the security of gas supply, as a lesson drawn from the current gas crisis, the Commission proposes different measures to enhance cooperation and resilience, including a voluntary joint procurement scheme for Transmission System Operators, including storage and their ownership in the national risk assessments.

Methane emissions from oil, gas and coal assets

To reduce methane emissions from fossil energy produced or consumed in the Union, the Commission-s proposal for a regulation on methane emissions reduction includes an obligation for operators of oil, fossil gas and coal assets to regularly assess and report the methane emissions of their assets as well as to detect and repair leaks.

Energy performance of buildings

With the proposal for a recast of the directive on the energy performance of buildings the Commission aims at higher building renovation rates, inter alia by setting minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings and obliging the Member States to regularly present national building renovation action plans. Obligations to provide building sites with charging points for electric vehicles will be tightened.

In addition to the Fit for 55 proposals, on 14 December 2021, as part of the Green Deal, the Commission also released a communication on sustainable carbon cycles, a proposal for a directive on environmental crimes as well as a proposal for a Council recommendation on ensuring a fair transition towards climate neutrality.

The proposals presented will be aligned with revised climate, energy and environmental Aid Guidelines (CEEAG) and with the taxonomy regulation.

The ETUC-s position for A Just Transition Legal Framework to complement the Fit for 55 package

Adopted at the ETUC Executive Committee meeting of 8-9 December 2021, trade unions support the increase in the climate ambition proposed in the package and recognize that it is in line with the new climate law.

The ETUC warns that the social consequences of the Fit for 55 package will be strong and should not be overlooked, especially on those workers for regions and sectors depending on fossil fuel activities that will undertake profound transformations. For example, the proposed reform of the Emission Trading System or the ban of selling new combustion engine vehicle by 2035 will profoundly impact the related industries. If nothing is done to manage and anticipate those changes, climate policies will negatively affect employment prospects in many regions and lead to deindustrialisation.

The ETUC also stresses that the proposed creation of a separate Emission Trading System for heating fuels in buildings and transport fuels – will have strong regressive distributional effects and affect proportionally more low- and middle-income households. At a time where 50 million European households already suffer from energy poverty and in the current context of sharp rise in energy prices.

A need for a stronger social dimension in the European Green Deal policies to deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights and on the Porto Declaration

To address those concerns, the ETUC calls on the European Commission to propose additional policy measures to strengthen the social and labour dimension of the European Green Deal. Now, the Commission’s legislative proposals are indeed designed with the ambition to achieve the 2030 climate target – which is absolutely needed – but fall short of measures to ensure a just transition for European workers and low-income households.

To be socially acceptable, the climate ambition proposed in the package should be matched by an equivalent social ambition, in line with the recent Porto Declarations made by the EU Council and the European Pillars of Social Rights. The European Green Deal agenda should indeed be used as an opportunity to maintain and create quality jobs, promote decent work across all sectors, raise labour standards, tackle discriminations at work, promote gender equality, and workplace democracy.

Trade Unions call for the adoption of a Just Transition legal framework as part of the European Green Deal

The ETUC calls for the adoption of policy measures to operationalise the ILO Guidelines for a Just Transition, adopted in 2015. Concretely, European trade unions are calling for the adoption of a Just Transition legal framework as part of the European Green Deal, to accompany the Fit for 55 packages.

The Commission’s proposal should go beyond simple recommendations to Member States and take the form of concrete legislative proposals to strengthen workers right to information and consultation as well as to ensure the creation of quality jobs.

On 1 December 2021 IndustriAll Europe’s Executive Committee concluded that “the organisation supports the ambition of reaching climate neutrality by 2050 if a Just Transition is guaranteed and if social partners are given the chance to anticipate possible disruptive changes for industrial value chains and related jobs in Europe”.

The union argues that with the publication of the Fit for 55 Package, the European Commission has finally put forward an extensive and ambitious package of proposals that aim to bring EU climate policy in line with the emissions reduction target for 2030. IndustriAll Europe adopted a position paper on the Package that affirms that its members see their role in trying to ensure that climate policies do not jeopardise the jobs and the working and living conditions of industrial workers. They want the Fit for 55 Package and its implementation to stimulate investment, create quality jobs, provide health and environmental benefits to EU citizens, while working to keep and develop strong industrial value chains in Europe through the promotion of innovation.

The position thus details the union`s concerns about “insufficient tools and resources to deal with the consequences of the accelerated push for decarbonisation” on workers in Europe. It also raises serious concerns about the impact on purchasing power, inflation, poverty, as well as on employment. The union is also worried about the impact some proposals might have on social inequalities, especially in Europe’s poorest regions.

The industriAll Europe position furthermore calls for:

  • a legal framework for the anticipation of change through workers’ participation
  • a sound industrial policy
  • a fair global regime based on a level playing field and international justice
  • the tackling of rising energy prices.

IndustriAll also approved the next steps in its campaign that foresee a range of regional roundtables on Just Transition, the adoption of a Just Transition manifesto and a European event in Spring 2022.

Béla Galgóczi

About the author

Béla Galgóczi, senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute, Brussels since 2003, has been working on capital and labour mobility in the EU. His current research focus is a just transition towards a carbon neutral economy with focus on fair labour market transitions in carbon intensive sectors and regions. He has a degree in Engineering and holds a Ph.D. in economics.