On 11 December, the European Commission presented the long-awaited European Green Deal in a press conference and in a plenary session at the European Parliament. The Commission calls it ‘Europe’s man on the moon’ moment. For President Von der Leyen, climate forms the very heart of her political agenda for the next five years. “70 years ago, Europe invested in coal and steel. Now we are investing in renewables and algorithms. This is the core of the European Green Deal.”
I went through the whole document and it is a well thought-through piece of work. The Commission really covers all aspects in its strategy to make Europe as climate friendly as possible. From a strong push for the energy transition to massive reforestation plans and halting biodiversity, from sustainable farming to recycling of electronic waste – all the right measures are there.
Really groundbreaking is that the EU will enshrine in law the target of becoming (the first) climate-neutral continent by 2050. This is at least the ambition of the Commission, now supported by 26 of the 28 EU Member States (the UK will be out by January, and Poland refuses to budge, protecting its very large coal industry).
Whether they are actually realistic, remains to be seen. Decarbonising the energy system is – with current technology choices available – impossible. ‘Clean steel’ production by 2030? Forget it. Realising the circular economy? With only 12% of materials recycled in Europe, this is a paper dream. In the meantime, NGOs are unhappy (“it doesn’t go far enough”) and richer and poorer EU Member States may be split over the measures. Not to mention, what do to with nuclear energy.
Overview of actions
The package consists of 50 actions for 2050. The key ones can be divided into various categories.
The hard-core political goals and actions:
- Europe climate-neutral by 2050, enshrined in law –> proposal for law in March 2020
- 50/55% CO2 reduction by 2030 –> proposal to be presented by Summer 2020
- Reform of ETS (Emissions Trading System) + carbon border tax
- Mechanism for ‘just transition’ worth 100 billion euro (to get central EU Member States to accept the 2050 target)
- Decarbonising the energy system – supplying clean, affordable and secure energy
Systemic reform of Europe’s economy (and society)
- EU industrial strategy to address twin challenge of green and digital transformation –> adopted in March 2020
- 1 million extra charging poles for EVs by 2025
- Doubling of speed of renovating buildings and increasing energy efficiency
- Investment plan by early 2020, EIB to become green investment bank
- Shift to sustainable and smart mobility
- Smart infrastructure and sector integration
- European Climate Pact to focus on three ways to engage with the public on climate action –> March 2020 announced
Realisation of the circular economy
- New circular economy action plan (the old one wasn’t effective), with sustainable products policy for circular design
- ‘Right to repair’ for consumers, curbing the built-in obsolescence of devices, in particular for electronics
- Economic growth decoupled from resource use
- Development of lead markets in Europe for climate neutral and circular products
- Preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
- Massive reforestation of land in Europe
- From ‘Farm to Fork’: a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system
- End green washing of products and services by taking (non-)regulatory measures