sabato, Maggio 25, 2024
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A Green Europe? The proposal for a European Green Deal

Among the primary goals of the new EC’s President – Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen – is to make Europe “green” as the first climate-neutral continent by the first half of this century[1].

This will require major efforts and changes in key sectors, which have all been addressed in the Political Guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024’s ‘A European Green Deal’ presented last December[2].

This part of the Political Guidelines is an ambitious strategy to achieve goals of different nature, which are crucially and inevitably intertwined. As we will see, climate-neutrality can only be achieved through a redesign and upgrade of our legislation, societal behaviour, economy, production and, in part, of the Institutional framework.

Legislative Amendments

When it comes to EU law, a significant innovation which will be brought about by the Deal is the first European Climate Law to enshrine the 2050 climate-neutrality target into law[3].

Besides, the 202020 climate energy package[4] will undergo some amendments. For instance, the Emission Trading Directive’s scope – the flagship of EU’s climate change policy[5] – will be extended to cover also the maritime sector. Additionally, for some sectors the new EC wishes to implement a new Carbon Border Tax: this proposal is not new but have been rejected in the past[6], so it will be seen whether the time is now ripe for its introduction. Lastly, the Energy Taxation Directive will be reviewed although it is still not clear in which sense yet.

In this manner, the EU aims to lead the way in the action against climate change. This means that efforts are the international level as well are warranted: leading by giving the example means that, for instance, by increasing its emission reduction targets ‘by at least 50% by 2030’[7], the rest of the World will hopefully be persuaded to follow suite.

Stronger commitments

Furthermore, as far as biodiversity is concerned, there is the EU’s commitment of enhancing cooperation with its global partners to curtail biodiversity loss on occasion of the 2020 COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity[8]. Biodiversity is indeed a precious resource for the EU, which needs to be preserved as well as other fruitful sources. Illustrative in this sense is the ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’ aiming to increase food security while also supporting farmers across the whole Union territory, who play a vital role in EU’s economy[9]. Similarly, there is the intention of preserving EU’s rural areas, although it is still unknown how this will be achieved.

A more clear-cut and multi-faceted approach towards zero-pollution strives to address citizens’ and the Planet’s health concerns, ranging from improving air and water quality to better regulating hazardous chemicals, endocrine disrupters and pesticides[10].

What is a remarkable feature of the upcoming European Green Deal is that there is the acknowledgement that the fight against these environmental concerns cannot go without complementary actions in other fields.

Everyone contributes, everyone wins – a Just Transition

The economic and financial aspect of the Deal will play a key role in achieving the greater goal of climate-neutrality. First of all, action by the EU will focus on providing ‘record amounts’ in research and innovation in the areas with the highest and most appropriate potential[11], by dedicating part of the EU budget to this purpose.

This might even entail an Institutional transformation, notably a conversion of part of the EIB into Europe’s climate bank[12]. This latest proposal would not only represent, if enacted, the first example of a financial Institution entirely dedicated to the climate cause worldwide, but would also highlight the deep influence that the climate and environmental discourse is having in moulding other political (and non-political) domains.

Second, private investments towards zero pollution will be stimulated via both the ‘strategy for a green financing’ and a ‘Sustainable Europe Investment Plan’, which will support up to €1 trillion of investment in the next decade[13].

The last, but not least, part of the Green Deal framework deals with the so-called Just Transition. By acknowledging that not all MS and regions start from the same point in the challenges ahead, the EU is set to predispose Cohesion Funds, mainly deriving from the InvestEU Programme and the EIB. Besides, bottom-up educational programmes and activities will be launched and supported under the umbrella of the so-called European Climate Pact[14]: from private citizens, to big industries to schools and regions themselves, this Pact endeavours to gather together every member of the civil society, which is called to draft a ‘set of pledges to bring about a change in behaviour’[15] – a condicio sine qua would be impossible to effectively achieve the Green Deal’s goals of improving ‘the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model’[16].

Overall, the environment-related issues faced by the EU (and the World) pose significant risks for both our generation and those to come. The perk of the proposed Agenda is that it is forward-looking, cutting across some fundamental sectors and operating at different levels of society. In essence, the challenges ahead are perceived as opportunities to abandon the business-as-usual methods of production and consumption and trigger the shift towards a more sustainable, inclusive growth for the benefit of everyone.

[1] EC, ‘The European Green Deal’, Communication 11/12/2019 COM(2019) 640, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/european-green-deal-communication_en.pdf.

[2] Ursula Von Der Leyen, Political Guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024A Europe that strives for more’, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/political-guidelines-next-commission_en.pdf.

[3] ‘The European Green Deal’, p. 4.

[4] [2009] OJ L140, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/strategies/2020_en. It includes the Emission Trading Scheme, the Effort Sharing, the Carbon Capture and Storage Directive, the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive. Its aim is to implement commitments to reduce by 20% emissions, to ensure 20% of energy consumption come from renewable energy sources and that EU’s energy consumption is reduced by 20% – by 2020.

[5] Bogojević, Climate Change Law and Policy in the EU, in The Oxford Handbook of International Climate Change Law, 2016.

[6] The idea proposed was that, in case a company moves to another country, then border tax adjustments would be imposed on importers of certain products (tax should be equal to the money that would have been paid under EU ETS) – idea rejected by EP. The rationale is to balance between protecting EU industries’ competitiveness and avoid excessive free allocation of allowances.

[7] Political Guidelines, p. 6.

[8] ‘The European Green Deal’, p. 13.

[9] Ibid., p. 11.

[10] Ibid., p. 13.

[11] Political Guidelines, p. 6.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] The European Green Deal Communication, p. 22.

[15] Political Guidelines, p. 6.

[16] Executive VP of the EC Frans Timmermann, Press Release 11/12/2019, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/EN/ip_19_6691.

Margherita Trombetti

Born in Bologna in 1994, she graduated from Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna with a thesis in EU Law on The Consequences of Brexit on Citizenship rights. Currently enrolled in a Master in International and European Union Law (LL.M) at Tilburg University. Writing on legal issues and topics is one of the ways through which she expresses her dedication to International and EU Law.  Besides, she is VP in the traineeships area of the ELSA Bologna team and constantly looks for new stimulating challenges. Her project is to become a EU Law experts, with a focus on environmental law and Human Rights. She's always down for a cup of tea and some chocolate, as well as for travelling around Europe with her beloved backpack.

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