As some act to stall progress, the forward motion provided by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and all she represents is a remarkable step forward. Presenting a Green Deal plan for Europe at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, she and her colleagues took a seed from US progressives and gave it the watering and care it needed in the fertile ground of Europe.
The new deal includes a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, which President Ursula von der Leyen referred to as “Europe’s man on the moon moment.”
However, despite the honorable intention and strong words, many still wonder if this will match the need. Even the European Council statement acknowledges there’s a big gap between current reality, including country-by-country plans, and future targets.
European Council meeting (12 December 2019) conclusions: “In the light of the latest available science and of the need to step up global climate action, the European Council endorses the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. One Member State, at this stage, cannot commit to implement this objective as far as it is concerned, and the European Council will come back to this in June 2020.”
The group of European countries encompasses 28 nations and 500 million people. How swiftly can people, businesses, financial markets, and consumers at large in these countries transition to the necessary standard.
The Washington Post outlines some specifics while questioning and trying to answer, “How big is Europe’s Green Deal?”
The European Commission plans will affect everything related to climate and addresses concerns of holdouts such a Poland, which relies too much on coal. It covers energy production, transport, farming, and the design of cities. The plan is comprehensive in terms of market segments.
President @vonderleyen remarks following first day of #EUCO. https://t.co/U36ehPKlAd #EUGreenDeal pic.twitter.com/9rjkfAsXJg
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) December 13, 2019
Transition is necessary for every industry, especially when looking at carbon-intensive markets, including steel and cement. Batteries are breaking through, dropping in price for use as energy storage. This enables both more electric transport and greater penetration of renewable energy on the grid, empowering politicians to set higher goals.
Perhaps the influence of the Northern Europeans will also help, especially due to the standard Greta sets and few are able to match. Not everyone can sail the ocean for weeks, yet some electric mobility companies are already investing in e-friendly seafaring vessels in the nick of time.
Greta Thunberg accuses world leaders of 'creative PR' at climate summit https://t.co/CnyEixupGv
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) December 11, 2019
The Washington Post outlines the planned measures:
- stricter emissions standards for vehicles and industries
- revamped energy taxes, including phasing out tax breaks for jet fuel
- new rules on subsidies for companies
- an environmental import tax, or other measures to prevent flight to regions with laxer policies
- a mechanism of 100 billion euros ($111 billion) to help the most affected regions
- a switch to greener farming practices
- measures to curtail the loss of biodiversity
- tougher air quality standards and a water quality action plan
Reaching “carbon neutral” status is tough on a large scale — whether a business, country, or continent — and the transition needs strong support from governments. This Green Deal goes even beyond Europe. “To make the rest of the world follow suit, there would be a carbon border tax, essentially tariffs on imported polluting goods,” Reuters further explains.
Additionally, a “Just Transition Fund” will provide at least €35 billion to support “regions most exposed to decarbonization challenge.”
Despite the positives, Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs felt efforts fall too short still. Activists from Greenpeace protested, but were removed before the leaders met.
Reuters reports that Friends of the Earth Europe did not fall in line so easily with the “man on the moon” image. They felt, although there was a change, it is not far-reaching enough as a Green Deal.
“Finally, the EU is waking up to rising public concern about the planetary emergency,” said Jagoda Munic, director of the environmental NGO. “However, the promises are too small, too few, and too far off – we’re on a runaway train to ecological and climate collapse and the EU Commission is gently switching gears instead of slamming on the brakes.”
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