The EU Green Deal – Europe Responds to Climate Change

13 December 2019

The eagerly anticipated EU Green Deal was published earlier this week to much furore in Brussels. Delivering on her central manifesto promise, European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen published the proposal in her first 100 days in office.  The goal of Europe’s Green Deal is to “reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce and consume with our planet and most importantly, to make it work for our people.” The European Green Deal is set to make Europe a more modern, resource-efficient and competitive global entity.

The Green Deal itself is already an expansive proposal cutting across almost every policy sector, which covers 50 specific policy measures and explicitly highlights the bloc’s social and economic prospects. In this insight, we will discuss five key areas covered by the European Green Deal along with relative responses from political parties, member states and other key stakeholders.

Firstly, the Green Deal proposal aims to reach complete climate neutrality by 2050. Within this goal lies an even larger aspiration, to cut greenhouse gas emissions by between 50 and 55% by 2030. This goal supersedes the Paris Agreement’s target reduction of 40% by 2030. More in depth milestones will be established following an impact assessment due to be delivered in the summer of 2020.

Secondly, following on from the success of Europe’s previous Circular Economy Action Plan which delivered upon 54 action points within three years, the Green Deal has proposed Circular Economy 2.0. This aims to focus on prevention or EcoDesign as opposed to waste management. The action will concern particular sectors such as construction (namely cement and steel), electronics, textiles, plastic among others.

Thirdly, the Green Deal aims to create a “pollution-free environment” by 2050. This policy would require a pollution action plan for air, water and soil by 2021. In the last term of the European Commission, 15 countries were referred to the Court of Justice of the EU over respective failures to meet air quality standards. The Green Deal proposes to “revise air quality standards to align them more closely with World Health Organization recommendations.”

Fourthly, the importance of biodiversity is highlighted throughout the Green Deal. The EU aims to protect, restore and mainstream ecosystems. A new biodiversity strategy is to be presented by the European Commission in March 2020. This proposal will be put forward in the run-up to a UN biodiversity summit taking place in China in October.

Fifthly, and arguably most importantly, how do we finance the Green Deal? Ms. Von Der Leyen has promised a Sustainable Investment Plan to ensure targets and milestones are met. The projected annual investment needed has been quoted at €260 billion. Of this, €100 billion will be allocated to create a Just Transition for countries in less developed regions (in particular areas with coal dependence). “We want to be the frontrunners in climate friendly industries, in green finance,” stated Ms. Von Der Leyen. 

Other notable areas covered in the Green Deal include: the Commission’s commitment to a revolution in transport through electric vehicles, freight transport, sustainable alternative fuels, amongst other areas; increased R&D investment, in particular through Horizon Europe; revaluations of global relationships by creating a greater incentive to trade greener goods and services; a farm to fork strategy; and increased investment in building renovation.

The EPP, S&D, Renew Europe, and GUE/NGL Group have all showed strong support in the European Green Deal with the Green Party stating that they will “consider each proposal on its merits.” With regards to European member states, the Green Deal is expected to face divided opinions between the greener Western half of the Continent and the coal-dependent East. Ms. Von Der Leyen has stated that “the ecological transition will reshape geopolitics, including global economic, trade and security interests.” Some opinions are highly anticipated, in particular the Trump Administration (given a track record of climate-scepticism).

The European Council is expected to evaluate the Green Deal in their conclusions later today. According to the Council “it takes 25 years – a generation – to transform an industrial sector and all the value chains. To be ready in 2050, decisions and actions need to be taken in the next five years.” The change to be caused by the European Green Deal will create winners and losers, it will create “challenges for a number of states and societies,” according to the Commission. Its objective however, is that this structural reformation will be fundamental for the progression of humanity as it stands today.