European Green Deal – The First Net-Zero Continent?

The European Green Deal sets out how to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, boosting the economy, improving people's health and quality of life, caring for nature, and leaving no one behind.

Climate change and environmental degradation present an existential threat to Europe and the world. To overcome this challenge, Europe needs a new growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, where economic growth is decoupled from resource use and where no one and no place is left behind

The European Union already has a strong track record in reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases while maintaining economic growth. Emissions in 2018 were 23% lower than in 1990 while the Union’s GDP grew by 61% in the same period. But more needs to be done. The EU, given its extensive experience, is leading the way in creating a green and inclusive economy.

What is the European Green Deal?

The Guardian explains

The European Green Deal is the EU’s answer to what the European commission’s new president, Ursula von der Leyen, called the “existential issue” of the climate emergency. Most EU countries have signed up to goal of a climate neutral EU by 2050, a goal demanding dramatic change in energy use, farming, housing, transport, trade and diplomacy.

  • As well as the long-trailed goal of enshrining in law a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, the plan will propose cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 (compared with 1990 levels). The current target is 40%
  • Making trade deals only with countries that stick to their climate targets under the Paris agreement
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy laws will be tightened up to reflect the more demanding climate targets
  • To avoid penalising European steelmakers and other industry who are cleaning up their act, non-EU competitors importing energy-intensive goods could face a tax, known as “a carbon border adjustment mechanism”
  • Using EU funds to develop a zero carbon steel industry by 2030.
  • Car and truck makers will have to do more to curb emissions, while the EU will seek to boost funding for electric vehicle charge points. Container and cruise ships, currently a gaping hole in efforts to tackle the climate emergency, will be brought into Europe’s emissions trading system, meaning maritime companies will probably have to buy pollution permits
  • A new strategy to protect European nature, as well as plans to plant and restore forests. Also proposed are plans to improve air and water quality, as well as a review that could lead to tightening of industrial pollution laws
  • Targets to cut pesticides, chemical fertilisers and increase the area of land devoted to organic farming will be part of an overhaul of the EU’s €59bn a year common agricultural policy
  • A plan to raise a €100bn “just transition fund” from public and private sources to help EU member states move beyond fossil fuels

The European Green Deal is only the start of the journey: laws will have to be drafted and agreed by EU ministers and MEPs; money will have to be raised; plans will have to be implemented. It is a route map, rather than a destination, and time is running out.

Sources & Further Reading
European Commission
The Guardian
Image credit – EUR-Lex

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