The European 'Green Deal' Policy
Climate change is one of the 21st century's largest challenges and requires dramatic solutions. Europe's pioneering climate-neutral growth strategy is leading the way in ensuring a greener, more sustainable future for all Europeans
Climate change is a major global concern. Eighteen of the last twenty years have been the warmest on record. Europe has been no exception, with climate-related extremes such as heatwaves, floods and severe droughts affecting the continent, often resulting in significant economic damage and even fatalities. However severe the consequences so far, as the planet continues to warm, effects in the future could prove to be far more devastating.
A significant global response to the threat of climate change was registered at the Paris Summit in 2015 where world leaders agreed to curb the average global rise in temperature. The summit participants agreed on a target of 2℃ (from pre-industrial levels) to be achieved by reducing global carbon emissions. It was further decided to reach "climate neutrality" by the middle of the century.
An European Green Deal
The European Union’s 'Green Deal' plan aims to bring formal EU policy into line with the Paris Agreement. As such, the main thrust of the 'Green Deal' is to make the EU "climate neutral" by 2050. Launched in December 2019 by the European Commission – the EU's regulatory and executive arm – the plan is considered a top priority. As Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "This is Europe’s 'man on the moon' moment."
Far from comprising a single scheme and a simple commitment to net zero emissions, the 'Green Deal' represents a sophisticated growth strategy and addresses a variety of multi-faceted aspects. The plan includes proposed measures that seek to boost eco-friendly modes of transport such as rail, to develop renewable energy sources, e.g., construction of wind farms, and other steps aimed at developing sustainable agriculture and reducing air, soil and water pollution in farming.
Additional plans to complement these measures include the expansion of carbon emissions' pricing, imposition of a new carbon border tax that will affect imports from non-EU countries with more lenient climate policies, and new regulations aimed at reducing industrial waste and encouraging companies to recycle.
Legislating a Greener Future
While the Paris Agreement was mostly non-binding on issues of substance, the 'Green Deal' is on track to becoming a pioneering, binding “European Climate Law”. The new law is provisionally scheduled to be unveiled on February 26, 2020 and will be subsequently discussed by governments in the EU Council and by members of the European Parliament. Once these two bodies each formulate their respective positions, they will, with the Commission's assistance, then conduct negotiations to agree upon a final version of the law.
If passed, the 'Green Deal' Climate Law would not only update existing EU climate regulations, but would, in practice, become the most comprehensive environmental legislation ever. Furthermore, the law would set a financial precedent as the EU plans to invest €1 trillion in its climate neutrality goals over the next decade. This financing, intended to promote economy-wide transitions and drive decarbonization across all sectors of the EU, will also stimulate and expand the economy at large.
Climate change is a major concern, both for the world and, specifically, for Europe. By its decision to become climate-neutral, the EU has once again assumed a leadership role on climate issues. This time however, the EU is going even further: viewing the transition to climate neutrality under the Paris Agreement as an opportunity and setting an example for countries worldwide, it intends to modernize the European economy with genuine green growth.
By Yevgeniy Glider
European Commission Green Deal webpage