The European Green Deal
What is the European Green Deal, who is designing it and how does it compare to previous steps in the EU energy and climate policy?
This article provides general information about the European Green Deal, the roadmap to its implementation and comparisons with previous climate policies.
What is the European Green Deal?
The EU Green Deal is the new growth strategy for Europe and a dedicated roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable. The goal of the European Green Deal, presented by the European Commission in December 2019, is for Europe to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
Achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050 requires a move away from coal, oil and natural gas as well as a comprehensive restructuring of the economy, including agriculture, transport and private energy use. In the words of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission: “This is Europe’s man on the moon moment. Our goal is to reconcile the economy – the way we produce, the way we consume – with our planet and to make it work for our people.”
Who is leading the work on the European Green Deal?
Frans Timmermans serves as European Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal. He is leading the Commission’s work on the European Green Deal and the first European Climate Law to enshrine the 2050 climate-neutrality target into EU legislation. Such law aims at turning the political commitment into a legal obligation and a trigger for investment.
What do we know about the roadmap of the European Commission for the European Green Deal?
The publication of the European Green Deal Communication is only the beginning of a long journey. A set of key actions is included in the roadmap published by the Commission. Individual actions are expected to be taken up starting from 2020, as shown in the indicative timetable.
How does the European Green Deal link to previous steps in the EU energy and climate policy?
The Green Deal is a timely reaction to both scientific reports and European citizens’ initiatives calling for increased action towards limiting the increase of global mean temperature to ideally below 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
The European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council all recognise that tackling climate change is an urgent challenge and that global and European climate action need to step up, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Through the EU Green Deal, the Commission proposes to reformulate a comprehensive climate, energy and industrial policy that aims at carbon neutrality by 2050, taking into account the needs of the economy and the importance of promoting solidarity among Member States.
In particular, the EU Green Deal aims at strengthening and broadening the initiatives included in the Energy Union launched under the previous Juncker Commission. Building on the achievements and the limitations of the 20-20-20 Strategy adopted in 2008-2009, the European Green Deal aspires to go beyond the ambitions for 2050 that were generically approved by the European Council in October 2009 and that represented the starting point for the subsequent elaboration of the policies currently in place for 2030.
What is the European Climate Law?
In March 2020, the European Commission published a proposal for the European Climate Law. It aims to complement the existing policy framework by setting the long-term direction of travel and making net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 a legally binding target.
The European Climate Law also addresses the necessary steps to reach the 2050 target, including a possible amendment of the EU target for 2030 greenhouse gas emission reductions and an EU-wide trajectory for greenhouse gas emissions reductions for the period 2030 to 2050.
The European Climate Law includes measures to monitor progress and adjust actions in case of insufficient progress or inconsistencies with the 2050 climate-neutrality objective. Such monitoring and adjusting measures are based on existing systems, including the governance process for Member States’ National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). The NECPs were introduced by Regulation (EU) No 2018/1999 on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action as part of the Clean Energy Package. Progress will be reviewed every five years, in line with global stocktaking measures foreseen in the Paris Agreement.
What is the Just Transition Mechanism?
The European Commission is convinced that the transition towards a more sustainable economy and a climate-neutral continent can only be successful if it works for all Europeans and nobody is left behind. A crucial part of the EU Green Deal is thus what is called the “Just Transition Mechanism”.
The Just Transition Mechanisms will provide targeted support to regions and sectors for which the transition towards the green economy is the most difficult. Support will be available to all Member States with a focus on the most carbon-intensive regions and regions with a significant number of people employed in the fossil fuels industry. The mechanism aims at mobilising 100 billion euros and it is built on three pillars, namely a new Just Transition Fund, an InvestEU Just Transition scheme and a new public sector loan facility with the European Investment Bank backed by the EU budget.
Which policy areas are impacted by the European Green Deal?
The EU Green Deal is ambitious and broad in scope, targeting agriculture, biodiversity, forests, food, green cities, the circular economy and many more. It is about cutting emissions while, at the same time, creating jobs and boosting innovation. Eventually, the European Green Deal should contribute to a Global Green Deal.
Eight policy areas are at the heart of the European Green Deal:
Aims at decarbonising the energy sector and exploring opportunities for alternative, cleaner sources of energy. The key principles are the prioritisation of energy efficiency and the development of a European power sector based largely on renewable energy sources, a secure and affordable energy supply across the EU, and fully integrated, interconnected and digitalised European energy markets. A focus is also put on empowering consumers and helping Member States to tackle energy poverty.
Aims at supporting European industry to innovate and to become global leaders in the green economy by discovering pathways to ensure more sustainable and environmentally friendly production cycles. The European Commission seeks to adopt a new industrial strategy based on the circular economy to support such green transformation.
Building and renovating
Aims at developing a cleaner construction sector and at starting a renovation wave of buildings to help people cut their energy bills and decrease their energy use. A new renovation initiative by the European Commission will centre around an open platform bringing together key stakeholders in the sector to develop innovative financing possibilities, promote energy efficiency investments in buildings and pool renovation efforts into large blocks to benefit from economies of scale.
Aims at promoting and rolling out more sustainable – cleaner, cheaper and healthier – forms of private and public transport. In the aim to reduce emissions from transport further and faster, the European Commission puts emphasis on the following areas of action: go digital, use different modes of transportation, ensure that prices reflect the impact on the environment, boost supply of sustainable alternative transport fuels and reduce pollution.
Aims at setting measures to protect nature and our ecosystem, focusing on the areas of biodiversity, forests and oceans. Actions planned by the European Commission include the development of a biodiversity strategy, a farm to fork strategy or a new EU forest strategy.
From Farm to Fork
Aims at ensuring the continuous safety, nutritiousness and high quality of European food and finding ways towards a more sustainable food system with minimum impact on nature. The European Commission is committed to presenting a so-called “Farm to Fork Strategy” aimed at contributing to achieve a circular economy from production to consumption.
Aims at introducing measures to cut pollution of air, water and soil rapidly and efficiently. To protect European citizens and ecosystems, the Commission seeks to adopt a zero-pollution action plan. Focus areas are thought to include clean water, clean air, industry and chemicals.
Aims at making the EU climate neutral by 2050. This policy area can be seen as the umbrella area, spanning across policy areas from the climate actions within the EU Green Deal to the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and effort sharing, transport emissions, fluorinated greenhouse gases or the protection of the ozone layer.
If you still have questions or doubt about the topic, do not hesitate to contact one of our academic experts:
- Energy priorities for the Von der Leyen commission: article by Christopher Wingfield Jones, Andris Piebalgs, Jean-Michel Glachant.
- EU Clean Energy Package: online course
- residential training co-organised by the Florence School of Regulation and the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence “Integrated Energy Systems”
- The EU’s response to the Climate Emergency: The Green Deal
- A note on energy policies for sustainability after Covid-19