European Green Deal is a welcome change in tone but raises many questions
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The European Green Deal, aimed at making the EU's economy sustainable, was announced by President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday and met with both hope and criticism.
The roadmap outlines the bloc’s plan to build a circular economy and stop climate change, revert biodiversity loss and reduce pollution. Europe will aim to turn into the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
As part of the plan, the European Commission (EC) wants to lift the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target for 2030 to 50%-55% based on 1990 levels. It will present an impact assessed plan for that by the summer of next year. In 100 days it will also propose a European Climate Law to turn the political commitment into a legal obligation.
“We are in a climate and environmental emergency. The European Green Deal is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model. Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens,” Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president, said. He added that every industry and country will be part of the transformation.
The commission is working on its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, a new Industrial Strategy for Europe and Circular Economy Action Plan. Next year, it will present the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan and Green Financing Strategy.
The announcement was welcomed by SolarPower Europe. It is happy that the call by associations and technology institutes for a robust industrial strategy for renewables to be recognised as a strategic value chain for Europe has been heard.
European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF) secretary General Dirk Hendricks said that the next months "will reveal how serious and determined decision-makers will be when defining concrete and detailed measures and strategies."
Friends of the Earth Europe, meanwhile, believes that the Green Deal promises are “too small, too few, and too far off”.
“We’re on a runaway train to ecological and climate collapse and the EU Commission is gently switching gears instead of slamming on the brakes,” said Jagoda Munić, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe.
The grassroots environmental organisation warned that waiting until 2050 to stop burning carbon is too late. It is calling for the removal of corporate influence from decision making, especially from fossil fuel companies, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, including for gas, and higher binding 2030 targets for renewables and energy savings. It also wants guarantees that the EUR-100-billion (USD 111.5bn) just transition fund proposed by the EC would not be used to bail out polluting industries.
“The devil will be in the detail to come – we will be watching closely to see that every single decision the Commission now takes puts environment, climate, and justice first.”