European Commission Launches Green Deal to Reset Economic Growth for Carbon Neutrality

The European Commission has launched an ambitious roadmaptermed the Green Deal that aims to make Europe the first carbon-neutralcontinent by 2050. Presenting the plan to European institutions, ECPresident Ursula von der Leyen described the Green Deal as Europe’s “manon the moon moment,” noting that it provides an overarching vision as well as50 concrete actions for a new growth strategy that “gives more back than ittakes away.”

The Green Deal roadmap, which was released on 10 December2019, seeks to design a set of “deeply transformative policies” at regional andnational level across eight key areas: increased climate ambition for 2030 and2050; clean, affordable and secure energy; a clean and circular economy; energyand resource-efficient buildings; sustainable and smart mobility; a fair,healthy and environmentally-friendly “farm to fork” food system; preserving andrestoring ecosystems and biodiversity; and zero pollution for a toxic-freeenvironment. The European Green Deal is at the heart of the Commission’sstrategy to implement the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and relatedpolicy priorities that include refocusing the European Semester process ofmacroeconomic coordination to integrate the SDGs, and placing sustainabilityand the wellbeing of citizens at the heart of the EU’s policymaking and action.

Related policy and legislative instruments to be presented bythe European Commission in 2020 include the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, thenew Industrial Strategy and Circular Economy Action Plan, the Farm to ForkStrategy for sustainable food, and proposals for pollution-free Europe. Theroadmap also forms part of the EU’s long-term strategy to be presented to theUNFCCC in 2020. A cornerstone of the new Strategy will be the adoption of thefirst European ‘Climate Law’ by March 2020. In addition to introducing moreambitious emissions targets, the plan seeks to drive policy reforms to makeEurope the frontrunner in climate-friendly industries, green technologies andgreen financing. Stressing the importance of leaving no one behind, von derLeyen reported that the Commission aims to mobilize EUR100 billion in fundingfor a proposed “Just Transition Mechanism” targeted at the most vulnerableregions and sectors. Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans presented theroadmap at the Chile/Madrid Climate Change Conference. He noted that in theface of a “climate and environmental emergency,” the Green Deal aims totransform the current economic model by setting targets to “cut emissions,restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create neweconomic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens.” Anestimated additional EUR 260 billion, or about 1.5% of the EU’s GDP in 2018, isrequired for the 2030 climate and energy targets alone.

The Green Deal roadmap includes proposals for generating morefinancing, including: developing a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan tointegrate the mobilization of green financing with an improved enablingframework conducive to green investment; introducing a 25% target for climatemainstreaming across all EU programmes, and doubling the European InvestmentBank’s (EIB) climate target from 25% to 50% by 2025. In the event thatdifferences in levels of ambition worldwide continue to persist “as the EUincreases its climate ambition,” the Green Deal envisions “a carbon borderadjustment mechanism” to reduce the risk of carbon leakage for selectedsectors. On 12 December 2019, the European Council released finalconclusions stating that one member State, although supporting the 2050 goal,“at this stage cannot commit to implement this objective as far as it isconcerned.” The Council expects to resume consideration of the road map in June2020.