The Communication from the European Commission on the Green Deal for Europe on 11th December 2019 had been awaited with much anticipation. During its presentation in the European Parliament, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pointed out that it was not the objective of the EU Commission to “find out what the costs of non-action would be”.
Since the publication of the IPCC Climate Report 2018, the EU Commission too had increased its focus on the issue of climate and published, among other, in November 2018 its Communication “A clean planet for all”. The report stated that in order to save the planet and its occupants, it was urgently required to take appropriate measures: greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced by 45 % between 2010 and 2030 and should reach net zero by 2050. The new Commission President von der Leyen has now declared the European Green Deal top priority and named the Dutch 1. Vice President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, as the key actor. In addition, the Green Deal shall be an integral part of the strategy to implement the targets for sustainable development of the United Nations.
The corner stones of the “European Green Deal”
During the presentation of the European Green Deal in the European Parliament, von der Leyen emphasised that a fundamental climate law should be created. In it, the net zero target by 2050 should be enshrined and the emission targets for 2030 should be tightened (reduction by 50-55 %, previously 40 %). Existing and new laws should be adapted to the target, whereby above all the energy sector would be of vital importance. At the same time, a Just Transition Fund totalling 100 billion Euros shall be set up over the coming years. Another aim is to install a CO2 cross-border balancing system at Europe’s external borders. This would create a level playing field and make a positive contribution to environmental protection. These are only two of many cross-sector measures, which are to contribute to fundamentally realigning economy, production and consumption in such a way that they also entail new impetus for the economy at the same time. Von der Leyen emphasised that nobody should be left behind, as “this plan is only effective if it is fair and works for all. Otherwise it will not work for anybody.”
Where improvements are required
The AK also champions the ideas and targets of the European Green Deal. But this Communication is only a first step, which now has to be followed up by more concrete and precise plans. It must, in particular, be ensured that a just transition will actually happen. This includes above all investments in people and their vocational training as well a Europe-wide coordinated minimum wage policy. The AK also sees the danger of “greenwashing’, growing energy poverty, the necessity of investing in particular in energy efficiency as well as a need for action regarding infrastructure and mobility. This requires above all public investments and a golden investment rule, which provides states with the necessary budgetary flexibility. Numerous measures must also be taken in respect of agricultural and foreign policy, such as the enforceability of sustainability chapters in trade agreements. In order to reach the net zero target, the Commission is thinking about using CO2 capture and storage (CCS) applying technologies, which are to be viewed critically.
Where do we go from here?
The submitted 24-page Deal also includes a schedule and thereby some dates, by which individual points shall be clarified. Member States have until the end of 2019 to present their revised energy and climate plans. The Commission has announced to strictly monitor that Member States set themselves ambitious targets and take measures to actually achieve them. A European climate law and an EU industry strategy shall be presented by March 2020. Finally, all policy fields shall have been scrutinised by June 2021 to establish to which extent they are contributing to achieving the climate target. Hence, there is a lot of work waiting for the new Commission, especially since Poland has not agreed yet. However, Timmermans pointed out that “this is a challenge, which we are willing to accept, which we do not want to postpone and which we intend to win.”