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

1. Introduction

    This Communication sets out a European Green Deal for the European Union (EU) and its citizens. It resets the European 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 “Green Deal” of the European Commission?

      The European Commission will propose the first European ‘Climate Law’ by March 2020. This will enshrine the 2050 climate neutrality objective in legislation. The Climate Law will also ensure that all EU policies contribute to the climate neutrality objective and that all sectors play their part.

      By summer 2020, the Commission will also present an impact assessed 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.

      New measures on their own will not be enough to achieve the European Green Deal ’s objectives and the environmental ambition of the Green Deal will not be achieved by Europe acting alone. As long as many international partners do not share the same ambition as the EU, there is a risk of carbon leakage, either because production is transferred from the EU to other countries with lower ambition for emission reduction, and this will frustrate the efforts of the EU and its industries to meet the global climate objectives of the Paris Agreement.

      In addition to launching new initiatives, the Commission will work with the Member States to step up the EU’s efforts to ensure that current legislation and policies relevant to the Green Deal are enforced and effectively implemented.

      The policy reforms will help ensure efficient pricing of carbon across the economy. This will encourage changes in consumer and business behavior and facilitate an increase in sustainable public and private investment.

      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.

      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%.

        The risk of energy poverty must be addressed for households that cannot afford key energy services to ensure a basic standard of living and in 2020, the EU Commission will produce guidance to assist Member States in addressing the issue of energy poverty.

        In the meantime, the Commission will also step up regulatory and non-regulatory efforts to tackle false green claims.

        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.

          Digital technologies are a critical enabler for attaining the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal in many different sectors. The Commission will explore measures to ensure that digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, cloud and edge computing and the internet of things can accelerate and maximise the impact of policies to deal with climate change and protect the environment.

          Member States should engage in a ‘renovation wave’ of public and private buildings and the Commission will rigorously enforce the legislation related to the energy performance of buildings. In parallel, the Commission proposes to work with stakeholders on a new initiative on renovation in 2020. An essential aim would be to organise renovation efforts into larger blocks to benefit from better financing conditions and economies of scale.

          The EU Commission will adopt a strategy for sustainable and smart mobility in 2020 that will address this challenge and tackle all emission sources. The Commission will for example support the deployment of public recharging and refuelling points where persistent gaps exist, notably for long-distance travel and in less densely populated areas, and will launch as quickly as possible a new funding call to support this.

          The Commission will also consider withdrawing and presenting a new proposal to revise the Combined Transport Directive to turn it into an effective tool to support multimodal freight operations involving rail and waterborne transport, including short-sea shipping. 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.

          The Commission will propose more stringent air pollutant emissions standards for combustion-engine vehicles. The Commission will also propose to revise by June 2021 the legislation on CO2 emission performance standards for cars and vans, to ensure a clear pathway from 2025 onwards towards zero-emission mobility.

          1 Not to say « systemic »....
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          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.

            The common agricultural and common fisheries policies will remain key tools to support these efforts while ensuring a decent living for farmers, fishermen and their families. By shifting the focus from compliance to performance, measures such as eco-schemes should reward farmers for improved environmental and climate performance, including managing and storing carbon in the soil, and improved nutrient management to improve water quality and reduce emissions.

            The strategic plans will need to reflect an increased level of ambition to reduce significantly the use and risk of chemical pesticides, as well as the use of fertilisers and antibiotics.

            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 biodiversity loss in the EU, underpinned by measurable objectives that address the main causes of biodiversity loss.

              The new EU forest strategy will have as its key objectives effective afforestation, and forest preservation and restoration in Europe, to help to increase the absorption of CO2, reduce the incidence and extent of forest fires, and promote the bio-economy, in full respect for ecological principles favourable to biodiversity.

              The Commission will also take decisions that include ways to manage maritime space more sustainably, notably to help tap into the growing potential of offshore renewable energy. The Commission will also take a zero tolerance approach to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

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

                The EU 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 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 European Green Deal objectives?

                  The Commission will present a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to help meet the funding needs. It will combine dedicated financing to support sustainable investments, and proposals for an improved enabling framework that is conducive to green investment. 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.

                  In order to bring an answer to the long-term financing needs of the transition, the Commission will continue to explore with relevant partners, as part of the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, additional sources that could be mobilised and innovative ways to do so.

                  The need for a socially just transition must also be reflected in policies at EU and national level. Well-designed tax reforms can boost economic growth and resilience to climate shocks and help contribute to a fairer society and to a just transition.

                  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 ensure rapid adoption of the Commission’s proposal on value added tax (VAT) rates currently on the table of the Council, so that Member States can make a more targeted use of VAT rates to reflect increased environmental ambitions, for example to support organic fruit and vegetables.

                  The European Innovation Council will dedicate funding, equity investment and business acceleration services to high potential start-ups and SMEs for them to achieve breakthrough Green Deal innovation that can be scaled up rapidly on global markets.

                  The Commission invites also stakeholders to use the available platforms to simplify legislation and identify problematic cases.

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

                    The Commission has also been stepping up efforts to implement and enforce the sustainable development commitments of EU trade agreements, and these efforts will be further enhanced with the appointment of a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer. On climate change more specifically, 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. The Commission will propose to make the respect of this Agreement an essential element for all future comprehensive trade agreements.

                    The Commission will launch a European Climate Pact by March 2020 to focus on three ways to engage with the public on climate action. In particular, the Commission will work on building capacity to facilitate grassroots initiatives on climate change and environmental protection. Information, guidance and educational modules could help exchange good practice. The Commission will ensure that the green transition features prominently in the debate on the future of Europe.

                    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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