European Union policymakers have unveiled their most ambitious plan yet to tackle climate change, aiming to turn green goals into concrete action this decade.

The European Commission, the EU executive body, set out how the bloc's 27 countries can meet their collective goal to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 - a step towards "net zero" emissions by 2050.

This will mean raising the cost of emitting carbon for heating, transport and manufacturing, taxing high-carbon aviation fuel and shipping fuel that have not been taxed before, and charging importers at the border for the carbon emitted in making products such as cement, steel and aluminium abroad.

It will consign the internal combustion engine to history.

"Yes, it is hard," EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans told a news conference. "But it's also an obligation, because if we renounce our obligation to help humanity, live within planetary boundaries, we would fail, not just ourselves, but we would fail our children and our grandchildren."

The price of failure, he said, was that they would be "fighting wars over water and food".

The "Fit for 55" measures will require approval by member states and the European parliament, a process that could take two years.

They will also face intense lobbying from some industries, from poorer member states that want to ward off price rises, and from more polluting countries facing a costly transition.

The measures have been welcomed by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, who said it would give Ireland legislative strength to ensure cleaner cars and better public buildings, as well as ensuring farmers stored carbon in soils.

Mr Ryan acknowledged that funding would both rise and fall, but said the overall package would be good for the Irish economy and would meet Ireland's climate goals.

He said the measures would provide the scale to help transform Ireland's economy.

"It's a really strong legislative package for climate action. It backs up what we're doing in government," he said. "It gives a real signal that this is where you invest, this is where the jobs are coming. This is the new economy.

"It is the European Green Deal, and it'll help us, it'll give us legislative strength that we'll have cleaner cars that we better public buildings, and we will pay farmers for storing carbon in our soils."

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'A concrete roadmap on the table'

The EU produces only 8% of global emissions, but hopes its example will elicit ambitious action from other major economies when they meet in November in Glasgow for the next milestone UN climate conference.

"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 roadmap on the table," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The package arrives days after California suffered one of the highest temperatures recorded on earth, the latest of a series of brutal heatwaves that have hit Russia, Northern Europe and Canada.

As climate change makes itself felt from the typhoon-swept tropics to the blowtorched bushlands of Australia, Brussels proposed a dozen policies to target most big sources of the fossil fuel emissions that trigger it, including power plants, factories, cars, planes and heating systems in buildings.

The EU has so far cut emissions by 24% from 1990 levels, but many of the most obvious steps, such as reducing reliance on coal to generate power, have been taken already.

The next decade will require bigger adjustments, with a long-term eye on 2050, by which date scientists say the world must have reached net zero carbon emissions to prevent climate change becoming catastrophic.

The measures follow a core principle: to make polluting more expensive and green options more attractive to the EU's 25 million businesses and nearly half a billion people.

Planes, ships and automobiles

Under the proposals, tighter emission limits for cars will soon make it harder to sell petrol and diesel car sales in the EU - and impossible by 2035.

An overhaul of the EU Emissions Trading System, the biggest carbon market in the world, will force factories, power plants and airlines to pay more when they emit CO2.

Ships will also be added to the ETS, requiring ship owners to pay for their pollution for the first time.

A new EU carbon market will impose CO2 costs on the transport and construction sectors and on heating buildings.

Some of the revenues will be put in a fund to cushion the inevitable rise in low-income households' fuel bills.

The commission also wants to impose the world's first carbon border tariff, to ensure that manufacturers do not have a competitive advantage over firms in the EU that are required to pay for the CO2 they have produced in making carbon-intensive goods such as cement or fertiliser into the EU.

Meanwhile, a tax overhaul will impose an EU-wide tax on polluting aviation fuels, which currently dodge such levies.

EU member states will also be required to build up forests and grasslands - the reservoirs that keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

For some EU countries, the package is a chance to confirm the EU's global leadership in fighting climate change, and to beat the forefront of those developing the technologies needed.

But the plans have exposed familiar rifts.

Poorer member states are wary of policies that will raise costs for the consumer, while regions that depend on coal-fired power plants and mines want guarantees of more support for a transformation that will cause dislocation and require mass retraining.

Minister Eamon Ryan said that in some areas, "money or funding will increase and in others it will contract".

"But on balance, I think it's good for Ireland," he said. "I think we will benefit by going green. We are a green island, and we have real capability in renewable power.

"We have the potential to switch over to agriculture in a way that really works for farms. We need to change our transport system. And this will help us do it."

He said the plan to ban diesel and petrol vehicles by 2035 was a signal that what "Europe at scale can give, that helps a smaller country like Ireland. We'll be the beneficiaries of that."

Employers' group Ibec welcomed the legislative package.

"The scope of the reforms proposed today is unprecedented, with nearly every sector of society impacted in some way," said Danny McCoy, Ibec CEO.

"Through the European Green Deal and the Climate Bill, Ireland now has a real opportunity to become a global leader in sustainability."

"Ibec will now work with its members and key EU stakeholders to ensure the legislation reflects the unique issues of Irish business and helps deliver a cost-effective transition to carbon neutrality."