Green Deal for Europe announced: policy overview and first reactions

european green deal
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The European Commission has presented its Green Deal for addressing climate and environmental challenges across Europe.

The European Green Deal, which covers all industry sectors within the EU’s economy, is designed to act as a ‘roadmap’ for Member States and EU bodies; detailing 50 concrete actions which must be taken to ensure full carbon neutrality across the bloc by 2050. Within 100 days of the announcement, the Commission plans to present the first European Climate Law; and work will begin immediately to strengthen the EU’s emissions reduction targets for 2030 and mobilise the requisite investment from both the public and private sectors throughout Europe.

President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away. It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming so that we live healthier and make our businesses innovative. We can all be involved in the transition and we can all benefit from the opportunities. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.”

The Green Deal will entail the implementation of a number of long term environmental policies, including:

  • A Biodiversity Strategy, setting conservation targets for 2030;
  • An updated Circular Economy Action Plan to combat waste and reduce plastic pollution;
  • The new Farm to Fork Strategy, promoting sustainability across the food value chain;
  • Shoring up the Just Transition Mechanism, supporting regions and communities which currently rely heavily on income from carbon-intensive industries; and
  • A ‘Climate Pact’ to be launched in March 2020, soliciting citizens’ input on policy development through outreach and awareness raising.

William Todts, Executive Director of sustainable transport body Transport & Environment, said: “The European Green Deal could be a defining moment in the fight against pollution and climate change. The Commission’s plan to move to completely zero emission cars and vans through a combination of new standards, ubiquitous charging infrastructure and green batteries is going in the right direction. The plan to end aviation’s tax holiday, make sure shipping pays for its emissions and mandate the deployment of clean fuels and technology is welcome. Of course this is just a declaration of intent – the devil will be in the details of the new laws and whether EU governments support the Green Deal – but it is a good start.”

Secretary General of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) Martin Dorsman said: “It is an ambitious plan that Europe will carry out to bring to the table the much-needed leadership in this global climate emergency. European shipping is the leading segment in the global shipping industry. Through innovation and deployment, we show the rest of the world shipping can be highly competitive while moving towards zero emission…Shifting to smart and safe zero emission shipping requires a radical change throughout the whole maritime industry and its supply chain, from fuels producers to the crew on board. European shipping is ready to work with the European Commission and the European Parliament, together with our maritime partners, to turn the goals of the European Green Deal into reality.”

Members of international conservation body the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) expressed conditional support for the Green Deal, noting that while the announcement represented positive progress, only concrete legislative and policy action will demonstrate the degree of the Commission’s commitment to sustainable development.

Ester Asin, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office, said: “By emphasising continued economic growth as a key objective, the Commission has missed an opportunity to challenge the traditional growth paradigm in favour of an approach that would respect planetary boundaries. Can such ‘in the box’ thinking achieve the deep systemic change that was promised?”

Head of European Marine Policy at WWF Samantha Burgess said: “The EU has the world’s largest maritime territory in the world, yet little ‘blue’ is to be found in the European Green Deal. While today’s announcement highlights the need for more connected and well-managed marine protected areas, no concrete measures are offered to achieve this. If a sustainable blue economy is to play a central role in the European Green Deal then much more substance on ocean recovery and resilience to climate change is required.”

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