The European Union Moving Forward on a “Green Deal”

Last week, as the UN Climate Meeting lurched and sputtered, the European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen of Germany,  proposed the European “Green Deal” — a blueprint for how Europe will cut their carbon emissions in half by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, aiming to be a first-mover on creating climate-friendly industries and building clean technologies.  In doing so she explained that this is their “moonshot” and that she is “convinced that the old growth model based on fossil fuels and pollution is out of date and out of touch with our planet” and they will work toward approval by the middle of next year.

Why This Matters:  Countries that seize the moment to transition to a fossil-fuel-free economy will win this century, and those that do not will be left behind.  Europe’s government, financial sector, and the energy industry seem to be moving in the right direction.  This stands in stark contrast to the United States.  They might be criticized for not raising their ambitions enough and for not moving even more transparently and quickly to get there, but at least the European Union is moving in the same direction toward cutting carbon emissions and not just because it is the morally correct thing to do, but also because they believe it will improve their prosperity.

What Does the Green Deal Do?

The Plan has ten points.  They are:

  1.  Climate Neutral:  A law that requires a “climate-neutral” Europe to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — it will be made public in March 2020.
  2.  Circular Economy: new circular economy action plan also will be proposed in March 2020, as part of a broader EU industrial strategy.
  3. Building Renovation: This is meant to be one of the flagship programs of the Green Deal with an objective to “at least double or even triple” the renovation rate of buildings, which currently stands at around 1%.
  4. Zero-Pollution: The objective is to reach a “pollution-free environment” — air, water, and land — by 2050.
  5. Ecosystems & Biodiversity:  A new biodiversity strategy to be proposed in March 2020, in the run-up to a UN biodiversity summit taking place in China in October.
  6. Farm to Table Ag Strategy: A new strategy will aim for a “green and healthier agriculture” system including to “significantly reduce the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics.
  7. Transportation:  Electric vehicles will be encouraged with the objective of deploying 1 million public charging points across Europe by 2025 and “sustainable alternative fuels” – biofuels and hydrogen – will be promoted in aviation, shipping and heavy-duty road transport where electrification is not possible.
  8. Financial Support:  To “leave no-one behind,” the commission proposes a ‘Just Transition Mechanism’ to help regions most heavily dependent on fossil fuels. “We have the ambition to mobilize €100 billion precisely targeted to the most vulnerable regions and sectors.”
  9. R&D: A proposed budget of €100bn over the next seven years (2021-2027) for climate-friendly technologies under an agreement struck earlier this year plus a series of research “moonshots” focused on environmental objectives.
  10. Diplomacy:  EU diplomatic efforts will be mobilized in support of the Green Deal — potentially to impose  a carbon border tax.

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