In time, if all goes to plan, 11 December 2019 may come to be regarded as a watershed moment for Europe and perhaps even for the planet. On this date the European Commission (‘the Commission’) presented the ‘European Green Deal’ (‘the Green Deal’) to the world. The Green Deal is effectively a detailed and ambitious, but, feasible plan to improve the quality of life for all European Union (EU) citizens by:
- Moving the European Union to a carbon neutral position by 2050,
- Protecting human, animal and plant life by reducing pollution,
- Assisting companies to become world leaders in clean products and technology,
- Ensuring that the transition takes place in a just and inclusive manner so that no areas are disadvantaged and ‘left behind’.
A key factor driving the proposed changes is that much of the required change will be underpinned by supportive legislation. This, in turn will translate into political obligations and provide a spur for innovation and investment. Specific areas the Commission aims to focus on are:
- Decarbonization of energy production. Energy production currently accounts for 75% of all Greenhouse Gases produced within the EU,
- Energy efficiency of buildings. Buildings currently account for 40% of total energy consumption in the EU. This can be reduced by renovating older properties, improved insulation etc.,
- The ‘greening’ of industry. The intention is to provide practical support to stimulate innovation in order to promote use of recycled materials and reduce waste,
- The goal is to move to cleaner, cheaper and healthier forms of public and private transport.
The Commission recognizes that to succeed, the Green Deal needs not just political commitment but also significant funding investment. The costs of change will be significant. The Green Deal intends to use the EU budget to leverage private funds for green investment and to support the regions and people most affected by the change. This will involve mobilizing a minimum of €1 trillion over the course of 10 years. In tandem with this, the Green Deal will create regulatory incentives for green investments to thrive and, assist public authorities and potential investors in identifying viable green projects. The task is significant and if successful the Green Deal will revolutionize the world’s second largest economy and, potentially drive climate action worldwide. Little wonder that Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen described it both as a ‘plan for growth’ and, ‘Europe’s man on the moon moment’. Following events at Davos it is obvious that the Green Deal places the EU in direct conflict with the USA. The EU can, however, point to the fact that across the period 1990 to 2018 it grew its GDP by 61% whilst still managing to reduce carbon emissions by 23% thereby demonstrating that greater wealth does not have to equate with increased pollution.
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