In 2009, at the height of the economic recession, the United Nations already pointed the way by launching a report entitled Rethinking Economic Recovery: A Global Green New Deal. Its call went unnoticed, but today, with numerous indicators focusing on the impact of climate change on the planet, the concept is back on the agenda with the aim of paving the way for sustainable growth. The European Union (EU) has now announced the European Green Deal.
Climate change is a reality and reality, as we know, is stubborn. The crisis caused by the coronavirus and its consequences can make us lose sight of problems such as this, which are still there and must be solved. Numerous proposals have been put forward in recent years to combat climate change, but one that keeps coming back is the Green New Deal, a movement that seeks to save the planet for new generations through sustainable growth. Thus, one of the most prominent projects is the one presented by the new European Commission, headed by Ursula Von der Leyen, in December 2019: the European Green Deal.
What is the European Green Deal?
The European Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overall objective of making Europe climate neutral by 2050. It will also present an impact assessment plan to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030 by at least 50% and towards 55% compared to 1990 levels.
In the context of the Paris Agreement, and therefore using current emissions as a baseline, because since 1990 EU emissions have already been reduced by 25% in 2019,  a 55% reduction target using 1990 as a baseline represents in 2019 terms a 40% reduction target: (0,55-0,25) / (1-0,25) = 0,40.
According to the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) 2020 Emissions Gap Report, meeting the 1.5°C temperature rise target of the Paris Agreement (with a 66% probability) requires a global emissions reduction of 34/59 GtCO2e in 2030 of 57% from 2019 levels, thus well above the 40% target of the European Green Pact.
This 57% emissions reduction target for 2030 represents global average reductions, while advanced economies are expected to contribute more.
The plan is to review each of the existing laws on their climate merits, and also to introduce new legislation on circular economy, building renovation, biodiversity, agriculture and innovation.
As part of the cross-sectoral actions of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European call for proposals for the Green Pact was published for 25 January 2021, across the 10 thematic areas into which it is divided, with the aim of funding projects that, by materialising in all areas of the European economy, will profoundly change the negative impact that productive activities and citizens’ lifestyles have on the environment, with a very ambitious perspective of achieving climate neutrality.
What are the objectives of the European Green Pact?
To make the EU climate neutral by 2050.
To protect human life, animals and plants by reducing pollution.
To help ensure a just and integrated transition.
Developing clean, reliable and affordable energy and developing the financing of the transition.
Reconversion of agriculture and rural regions.
Proposals and policies of the EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL
The European Green Deal contains a wide range of measures to promote an energy mix based on renewables, to advance in the sustainability of transport, to lead a sustainable, efficient and circular industrial model, etc. Below, we review in detail the main proposals put forward within this ambitious project:
Only 12% of the materials used in industry come from recycling. The proposal is for companies to receive aid to modernise their processes and stimulate circular production that generates zero emissions. It will particularly affect sectors such as textiles, electronics and plastics.
The renovation of buildings, which currently account for 40% of energy consumption, will be key. Sustainable urban development that invests in the energy efficiency of buildings is therefore proposed.
Energy production and use account for more than 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, so the aim is to decarbonise this sector and prioritise the use of clean and renewable energies by modernising infrastructure and promoting energy efficiency.
The aim is to reduce emissions from cars, trains, sea and air transport – transport accounts for 25% of EU emissions. Sustainable mobility is therefore proposed to encourage the use of cleaner and more efficient public and private transport.
The European Green Pact also promotes measures to protect biodiversity and ecosystems, to improve the quality of oceans and forests, and to develop the green city concept which aims to increase biodiversity in urban spaces.
The aim is to reduce the use of pesticides and develop innovative techniques, such as foodtech, in agricultural processes, to ensure sustainable and quality food, and to increase organic farming, among other things.
Clearly, cutting emissions must be a major goal. But in addition to clean air, measures are also proposed to achieve plastic-free seas and oceans and to improve the quality of life of citizens.
Action against climate change
Climate change is a battle that must be won in the medium and long term, but with everyone’s efforts today and appropriate mitigation and adaptation, such as the measures proposed by the UN, we can begin to minimise the damage and promote more sustainable development. For example, by promoting the so-called green jobs that are key to the economy of the future:
Measures to mitigate climate change:
Improving energy efficiency and committing to renewable energies.
Promote public transport and sustainable mobility.
Promote industry, agriculture, fishing and organic livestock farming, as well as responsible consumption.
Taxing the use of certain fuels through green taxes.
Climate change adaptation measures
Build safer and more sustainable buildings and infrastructure.
Replant forests and restore damaged ecosystems.
Diversify crops to make them more adaptable to climate change.
Seek innovative solutions to prevent and manage natural disasters.