The European Green Deal: A way forward

Article written by Abigail Mizzi – Executive, MEUSAC
Published in The Malta Independent – 28.01.2020

According to a recent United Nations report, it is estimated that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. What’s worse is that our planet has so far already lost 60% of its wildlife. Moreover, with each passing year, the Earth’s poles continue to melt, sea levels continue to rise, and the overall global temperature continues to increase.  This constitutes a global climate and environmental crisis; a crisis which comes at a cost of € 12 billion every year.  The social costs are high as well, since according to the latest figures, around 20 million people are forced to escape their homes due to climate catastrophes; by 2050 this number is set to increase to 140 million.  An immediate action to the impending destruction of our planet is required urgently.

This is why Ursula von der Leyen, new President of the European Commission was met with hope and enthusiasm when she announced that she will deliver a new Green Deal for Europe within her first 100 days in office. Von der Leyen’s Commission started works on this proposal and presented the European Green Deal in December 2019, a few days after taking office. The Green Deal is forecast to be the hallmark of this Commission’s tenure. As anticipated, the reactions to the deal were varied, however what is undeniable is that it has managed to provide a strong direction on the way forward when it comes to climate change and environmental issues.

In fact, the deal is more of a strategic plan detailing how the EU will ensure that it will reach its ambition of climate neutrality by 2050. It tries to infiltrate climate consciousness and action in every socio-economical aspect, from industry to the food we eat.  As such, the ultimate aim of the deal is to ensure growth and competitiveness without sacrificing resource efficiency and sustainability.

The deal forecasts various initiatives that the Commission will launch in the coming months. This includes, among others, a Climate Law which is set to increase the EU emissions reduction target to 55% for 2030.  For this target to be reached, large sectors of society, such as transportation, buildings, aviation, agriculture, industry, energy and infrastructure must all contribute. This means that, for example, industry must become more circular rather than linear. By saying that the industry must become more circular, one understands changes that make use of less resources or ensure waste elimination by using recyclable materials in production or guaranteeing repairability of a product.  When it comes to buildings, energy efficiency will become essential, especially when taking into consideration that 50 million Europeans struggle to keep their houses warm and therefore waste a lot of energy. Therefore, buildings will have to start being renovated to the latest energy efficiency standards at a faster pace, keeping in mind that buildings account for 40% of the energy consumed in Europe.

Strategy means nothing without action.  It ultimately boils down to EU Member States and their national, regional and local governments to be the drivers and support the deal with the right implementation of the EU’s vision. This will not be an easy task since implementing this strategy will require more than €260 billion of additional annual investments, most of which are risk investments due to the latest and infant technology the solutions to such policy measures require.  However, to tackle this the European Commission has also published a detailed plan of how the European Green Deal will be financed, a sizeable chunk of which will be financed from the EU’s budget itself.

The pressure on the EU and the Member States to deliver on climate objectives has never been higher and the European Green Deal is a good step in the right direction and a way forward to face the climate and environmental challenges of our time.

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