The European Commission has unveiled the three-decade roadmap towards a sustainable economy. The Green Deal aims to achieve EU’s climate neutrality by mid-century and will cover all economic sectors, notably energy, agriculture, and transport.
“The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy,” said the new Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on December 11. Former Germany’s Defense minister has promised to present the first European Climate Law within 100 days.
By next summer, the EU Executive will launch a plan to increase EU’s 2030 climate target from the current 40% to 50-55% in order to make possible the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Among the actions to lead the global fight against climate change, the Commission proposes revisions on the renewable energy and energy efficiency directives. In this area, there is a particular focus on redesigning European buildings.
Some transport industries like the automotive sector will be especially affected by the new CO2 emission standards. Electric vehicles are EU’s major bet, the Commission aims to support the deployment of one million public charging points by 2025.
Agriculture activities also will experience a significant transition to reduce the use of chemical pesticides, while some resource-intense sectors such as textiles, construction, electronics, and plastics will have to adapt to the Circular Economy Action Plan to survive.
“We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast,” claimed von der Leyen. “By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us,” she concluded.
But this ‘leading by example’ plan requieres the approval of the European Parliament and the European Council —which comprises the 28 EU leaders, — and the second body will not be easy to convince.
Most EU countries have backed the net-zero emissions target, but some like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary refuse to endorse the proposal until specific EU funds are allocated to help their economies go green.
On the contrary, the EU Assembly will most likely support the Commission’s action plan. Leaders of Parliament’s main political groups –European People’s Party (EPP), Socialists & Democrats (S&D), and Renew Europe (RE)— have welcomed von der Leyen’s announcement.
The Greens and the United Left have asked the EU to commit to a 65 % and 70% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, respectively. Far-right group (ID) and the Conservatives (ECR) have showed their opposition to the Green Deal.
EU can take advantage of leadership vacuum
Ahead of the UN COP25 taking place in Madrid between December 2-13, MEPs approved a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency in the UE with 429 votes for, 225 votes against, and 19 abstentions.
In the same plenary session, the EU Assembly urged the Commission to include the 55% reduction target by 2030 in the European Green Deal.
Both resolutions were approved shortly after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on November 4. President Donald Trump said the agreement would “undermine” the U.S. economy and stood for his ‘America First’ policy instead.
The Chair of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament Pascal Canfin (RE) did not hesitate to refer to Trump’s decision when he took the floor. “While the United States confirmed its exit from the Paris Agreement, we reaffirmed today that we want Europe to be serious about the fight against climate change”, he said.
Achieving the Green Deal objectives requires significant investment
After yesterday’s announcement, most of the MEPs’ questions were focused on the ways to finance the sustainable transition.
According to the Commission, at least 25% of EU’s long-term budget should be dedicated to climate action. So far, the EU body estimates €260 billion ($290 billion) of additional annual investment to accomplish the 2030 climate target.
A Sustainable Europe Investment Plan will be launch in early 2020 together with a Green Financing Strategy for the private sector to contribute to financing the green transition.
The package intends to transform Europeans’ way of living, working, producing, and consuming. “Every industry and country will be part of this transformation,” said Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who has remarked EU’s responsibility to make sure the transition is “a just transition” in which “nobody is left behind.”
Climate change becomes Europeans’ priority
For the first time, European citizens have pointed to climate change and environment as the most important matters that the Parliament should address. According to the October Eurobarometer survey, 32% of EU citizens want climate to be MEPs top priority.