Europe’s Green Deal proposes economic overhaul to tackle climate crisis

The newly appointed President of the European Commission (EC), Ursula von der Leyen, has unveiled plans to make Europe the world’s first ‘climate neutral continent’ by 2050. Announced in December, the EU’s so-called Green Deal outlines a step-by-step suite of initiatives aimed at facilitating the transition to a net zero economy.

Its first act will be put into motion this early this year with the introduction of a ‘Just Transition Mechanism’ – a €100bn investment into the regions most exposed to the financial and social risks of the energy transition. These places, the Commission says, are highly dependent on fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industry. The funding will broadly go towards reskilling workers and stimulating carbon neutral economic activity in the areas deemed most vulnerable.

The EC has vowed to introduce new laws in March which will formally enshrine the carbon neutrality by 2050 target. Green Deal plans will also see lawmakers propose more ambitious carbon reduction plans in the middle of year. According to official documents, this will include setting a binding target to slash emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2030. The existing target, which was adopted in October 2014, mandates cuts of 40%.

‘This is Europe’s man on the moon moment,’ von der Leyen said in a video statement at the Green Deal’s launch, adding: ‘Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet. The old growth model that is based on fossil fuels and pollution is out of date and out of touch with our planet. It will be a long and bumpy road. But we are determined to succeed.’ 

The Commission’s strategy includes 50 separate policy measures to be rolled out over the next three years. However, these are likely be met with opposition from some of the bloc’s coal-dependent eastern states. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic initially refused to sign up to the carbon neutrality by 2050 target, though the latter two were eventually brought on board.

Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, told the press that he had worked to secure an exemption for his country on the climate neutrality target, which it would aim to meet at its own pace. Meanwhile, environmental groups largely welcomed the Green Deal announcement, though some criticised its timelines for decarbonisation.

‘The urgency expressed on the streets and by the science is still missing,’ says Imke Luebekke, Head of Climate at the WWF European Policy Office. ‘The EU must increase its 2030 climate target to 65% in early 2020 to show the world it is moving and inspire others to do likewise. The climate cannot wait.’

The EU’s Green Deal comes as public concern about the climate crisis builds to an all-time high. Last year saw numerous climate-linked catastrophes – from wildfires in California and Australia to flooding in Venice – dominate headlines around the world. 

 

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