13 Dec EU Introduces its Green Deal to Combat Climate Change
On Wednesday, 11th December 2019, at the COP25 summit in Madrid, the European Commission put forward its groundbreaking climate strategy, and policy initiatives, to place Europe on track to reach net-zero global warming emissions by 2050 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en).
Promoting it as Europe’s new growth strategy, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated that “This is Europe’s man on the moon moment”, and that “Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our plant” and “to make it work for our people” ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/11/european-green-deal-will-change-economy-to-solve-climate-crisis-says-eu).
In other words, almost every aspect of the European economy will be re-evaluated in light of the climate and ecological emergency, as put forth in the European Commission’s Green Deal (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/european-green-deal-communication_en.pdf).
The main points of the strategy plan are to create a ‘climate neutral’ Europe, to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; to have a circular economy, which will include a sustainable product policy with “prescriptions on how we make things” in order to use less materials, and ensure products can be recycled and reused; and to promote building innovation, with a key objective of “at least double or even triple” the renovation rate of buildings (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/eu-commission-unveils-european-green-deal-the-key-points/).
Other points entail to reach a “pollution-free environment” by 2050; to have a “green and healthier agriculture” system to “significantly reduce the use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics; for transport to reach 95gCO2/km by 2021 and to work towards zero in the 2030s; and regarding ecosystems and biodiversity, to introduce new measures to address the main drivers of biodiversity loss and to tackle soil and water pollution as well as a new forest strategy.
It should also be noted that the deal also aims to “leave no-one behind” and to help regions, most heavily dependent on fossil fuels, in its Just Transition Mechanism, by providing finance of circa EUR 100 billion; the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme to also contribute to the Green Deal, with a proposed budget of circa EUR 100 billion over the next seven years; and regarding external relations – to encourage the rest of the world to play its role too, as Europe increases its climate ambitions. If the rest of the world does not, Europe will protect its industry against unfair competition.
As was mentioned above, Europe’s Green Deal has as one of its objectives, to ensure that all regions are on board, to turn the world’s third-biggest polluter and embrace climate-friendly economic policies as well as provide coal-reliant nations with payouts worth billions of euros (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/11/world/europe/eu-climate-plan-coal.html).
However, although there is strong support from many governments, others are reluctant, such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, who have been holding out, as they demand more money to finance their low-carbon transformation (https://www.ft.com/content/42761ec6-1c69-11ea-9186-7348c2f183af).
Specifically, Poland, on Thursday, 12th December 2019, is the only country that did not sign up to the net-zero target by 2050, as it relies on coal for 80 per cent of its energy, and it is demanding billions of extra financial aid. Hence, the European Council will come back to this in June 2020 (https://www.ft.com/content/560feece-1d06-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4).
On parallel lines, China has led a group of four major developing economies, Brazil, South Africa and India, in attaching the “imbalances in the negotiations” at the Summit, whereby in a joint statement, they are calling on wealthier nations to provide more funding to deal with the environmental crisis (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3041711/cop25-summit-china-leads-four-nation-attack-over-imbalances-un).
It should also be noted that there is disagreement on how to create a global carbon trading market, as the Summit has been tasked to create a framework that would allow countries to exchange carbon offsets or pay each other for emission-reducing projects (https://www.ft.com/content/637b58e8-1c2d-11ea-9186-7348c2f183af).
The President of the European Commission declared in relation to the European Green Deal, that the new European Green Deal is Europe’s response to the people’s call, and a contribution for a better world. Most importantly, “This is a task for our generation and the next, but change must begin right now – and we know we can do it” (https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/tanzania/71931/node/71931_uk) (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/11/europe-climate-crisis-european-green-deal-growth).