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The essentials of the "Green Deal" of the European Commission

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Context - The European Union has published, at the end of 2019, a European Green Deal, which covers policy guidance on climate and pollution.

These are the essential proposals.

This is a faithful summary of the leading report produced in 2019 by European Commission (EC): "The European Green Deal " 

  • Source document:EC (2019)
  • Summary & Details: GreenFacts
Latest update: 7 January 2020

1. Introduction

This Communication sets out a European Green Deal for the European Union (EU) and its citizens. It resets the Commission’s commitment to tackling climate and environmental-related challenges that is this generation’s defining task. The atmosphere is warming and the climate is changing with each passing year. One million of the eight million species on the planet are at risk of being lost. Forests and oceans are being polluted and destroyed.

2. What are the climate objectives of the European Green Deal of the European Commission?

The Commission will propose the first European ‘Climate Law’ by March 2020, putting the 2050 climate neutrality objective into law. By summer 2020, the Commission will also present a plan to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reductions target for 2030 to at least 50% and towards 55% compared with 1990 levels in a responsible way.

Achieving a climate neutral and circular economy requires the full mobilization of industry. It takes 25 years - a generation - to transform an industrial sector and all value chains. To be ready in 2050, decisions and actions must be taken over the next five years.

The EU Commission will also work with the Member States to step up the EU’s efforts to ensure that current legislation and policies relevant to the European Green Deal are enforced, in particular reforms to ensure efficient pricing of carbon across the economy.

3. How can those objectives be turned into policy?

The challenges are complex and interlinked. The policy response must be bold and comprehensive and seek to maximise benefits for health, quality of life, resilience and competitiveness. It will require intense1 coordination to exploit the available synergies across all policy areas.

All EU actions and policies will have to contribute to the European Green Deal. The EU has already started to modernize and transform the economy with the aim of climate neutrality. Between 1990 and 2018, it reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 23%, while the economy grew by 61%.

1 Not to say « systemic »....

4. Which complementary initiatives will play a role in this strategy?

Together with the industrial strategy, a new circular economy action plan will help modernise the EU’s economy and draw benefit from the opportunities of circular economy domestically and globally. The action will focus in particular on resource-intensive sectors such as textiles, construction, electronics and plastics. A sustainable product policy also has the potential to reduce waste significantly.

Ensuring the supply of sustainable raw materials, in particular of critical raw materials necessary for clean technologies, digital, space and defence applications, by diversifying supply from both primary and secondary sources, is therefore one of the pre-requisites to make this transition happen.

The European Commission will rigorously enforce the legislation related to energy performance of buildings and digital technologies will be a critical enabler for attaining the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal. The Commission will adopt a strategy for sustainable and smart mobility in 2020, propose more stringent air pollutant emissions standards for combustion-engine vehicles and will also consider revising the Combined Transport Directive to turn it into an effective tool to support multimodal freight operations. In aviation, work on adopting the Commission’s proposal on a truly Single European Sky will need to restart, as this will help achieve significant reductions in aviation emissions.

5. What are the initiatives related to food and agriculture?

The Commission will present the ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy in spring 2020 and launch a broad stakeholder debate covering all the stages of the food chain, and paving the way to formulating a more sustainable food policy by shifting the focus from compliance to performance.

6. What are the issues more specifically linked to biodiversity?

To ensure that the EU plays a key role, the Commission will present a Biodiversity Strategy by March 2020, to be followed up by specific action in 2021. The strategy will outline the EU’s position for the Conference of the Parties on Biodiversity2, with global targets to protect biodiversity, as well as commitments to address the main causes of its losses in the EU, underpinned by measurable objectives that address these losses.

The EU Commission will also take decisions that include ways to manage forests and maritime spaces.


7. What are the objectives of the Green Deal regarding pollution and waste?

The Commission will adopt in 2021 a zero pollution action plan for air, water and soil and will review EU measures to address pollution from large industrial installations.

In addition, the Commission will propose measures to address pollution from urban water runoff and from new or particularly harmful sources of pollution such as micro plastics and chemicals, including pharmaceuticals.

8. What financial resources are needed to support the Green Deal objectives?

The Commission will present a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to help meet the funding needs. At least 30% of the InvestEU Fund3 will contribute to fighting climate change. A revenue stream could involve allocating 20% of the revenue from the auctioning of EU Emissions Trading System to the EU budget.

The need for a socially just transition must also be reflected in policies at EU and national level. At national level, the European Green Deal will create the context for broad-based tax reforms, removing subsidies for fossil fuels, shifting the tax burden from labour to pollution, and taking into account social considerations. In this context, there is a need to use the available platforms to simplify legislation and to ensure rapid adoption of the Commission’s proposal on a more targeted use of VAT rates to reflect increased environmental ambitions.


9. What are the impact of sustainable development commitments in the frame of EU trade agreements?

The Commission efforts to implement and enforce the sustainable development commitments of EU trade agreements will be further enhanced with the appointment of a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer. The EU’s most recent agreements all include a binding commitment of the Parties to ratify and effectively implement the UNFCCC Paris Agreement on Climate action4, propose to make its respect an essential element for all future comprehensive trade agreements and launch a European Climate Pact.

The Commission and the Member States must also ensure that policies and legislation are enforced and deliver effectively. In this context, the Commission will consider revising the Aarhus Regulation5 to improve access to administrative and judicial review at EU level for citizens and NGOs who have concerns about the legality of decisions with effects on the environment.


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