FAQ: What is the European Green Deal

    04 Jul 2021

    Of course, you know who Greta Thunberg is? Have you heard about her main creation – so called Fridays For Future strikes? Even more – do you know that a movement established by a small girl in 2019 started to influence EU politics?

    Let’s check it, thankfully to Ecoaction NGO explanation.

    In 2019, during the FFF strike, schoolchildren and retirees, the employed and the unemployed, demanded that the authorities shall not “not burn their future” and act to protect the climate. 185 countries and 7.6 million people joined the strike. And politicians had heard them.

    By the end of 2020, 127 countries, responsible for approximately 63% of emissions, are considering or adopting climate neutrality targets no later than 2060.

    The European Union has also announced plans to become climate neutral by 2050. The target began to be considered after the climate strikes that took place in 2019. In December 2019, the European Commission presented its vision for the development of the European continent – the “European Green Deal”.

    The European Green Deal (EGD) is a package of systemic policy solutions for the continent’s transition to climate neutrality by 2050 and the development of a prosperous and just society. Although the EPC is not a law, it is a first step towards consolidating resource efficiency, greening investment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and equitable transformation for sustainable development and environmental protection.

    The European Green Course itself contains only 24 pages and is not exhaustive. However, it is complemented by Strategies for key areas of development.

    Climate action is at the heart of the European Green Deal – an ambitious package of measures ranging from ambitiously cutting greenhouse gas emissions, to investing in cutting-edge research and innovation, to preserving Europe’s natural environment.

    First climate action initiatives under the Green Deal include:

    · European Climate Law to enshrine the 2050 climate-neutrality objective into EU law;

    · European Climate Pact to engage citizens and all parts of society in climate action;

    · 2030 Climate Target Plan to further reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030;

    · New EU Strategy on Climate Adaptation to make Europe a climate-resilient society by 2050, fully adapted to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. 

    By July 2021, the Commission will also review and, where necessary, propose to revise all relevant policy instruments to deliver additional greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

    The key strategies of the European Green Course are:

    1. From the farm to the fork. Agricultural products, such as sunflower or chicken, can absorb certain harmful substances during cultivation. Also, the way of farming harms the environment: it pollutes the land and water, destroys forests to increase arable land, kills living beings with insecticides. Some farmers add antibiotics to their feed to speed up the growth of animals and prevent the spread of epidemics. People who consume products from such farms become less or even insensitive to antibiotics.

    People should have free access to healthy food, and its production should not harm the environment. Therefore, the Farm-to-Fork Strategy aims to reduce the use of pesticides by 50% and fertilizers by 20%, while maintaining soil fertility at the same level. At the same time, the amount of harvested products per hectare should not be reduced.

    Also, to reduce the level of resistance of pathogenic bacteria to antibiotics, it is planned to reduce the sale of antibiotics to farms and aquaculture farms by 50%. In addition, the strategy encourages the development of environmentally friendly farming – organic farming. 25% of agricultural land should be used for organic farming. All goals of the strategy should be achieved by 2030.

    2. Clean energy. In the European Union, 75% of greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, including energy production and consumption, the transport sector, and others. That is why, in order to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the Strategy envisages a gradual but complete abandonment of the use of coal in energy. Some EU countries set more ambitious dates: France – until 2022, Slovakia – until 2023, Italy – until 2025, Greece – until 2028.

     In order not to leave the whole European continent without electricity, the Strategy puts the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources at the forefront.

    3. Sustainable mobility. The transport sector in the European Union is responsible for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions (as of 2018) and has one of the largest reduction potentials – up to 90%. Digitalization of traffic will help to better control traffic and reduce energy consumption.

    Distribution of greenhouse gas emissions by mode of transport (2017)

    Source: Sustainable Mobility Strategy of the European Green Course 2019

    To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is proposed to abandon travel of up to 500 km by plane, and use land or water transport. The strategy also recommends shifting freight from roads to rail and water transport. 75% of the cargo should be transported by rail. And to stimulate the transition, it is necessary to introduce a system of payment for travel, taking into account the climatic footprint, introduce appropriate taxes, and conduct education. The European Commission proposes to declare 2021 the year of the railway for its promotion.

    Reducing air pollution is another goal of the Strategy. To this end, emission requirements for vehicles will be increased and appropriate taxes will be introduced. The Strategy places great emphasis on the development and increase of the share of electric vehicles and the development of a network of gas stations.

    Public transport in the Strategy is almost not mentioned, although it is one of the most sustainable means of transportation (after bicycles, scooters, etc.). The more people travel by trolleybus or tram, the less congestion on the roads and the less harmful emissions into the air, not to mention the reduction of energy consumption per person transported.

    4. Circular economy

    Half of total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water scarcity are related to resource extraction and processing. Therefore, the strategy recommends developing the economy in the direction of climate neutrality and resource efficiency, while maintaining competitiveness.

    To conserve EU resources, it is necessary to move to a model of regenerative growth. This means not using more than the planet provides in real time, reducing resource consumption and doubling the reuse of materials in the next decade.

    The problem of environmental pollution is often transferred to the person who buys the product, and after use throws it away, its remnants or even packaging.

    The strategy recommends reorienting production and offering consumers products without packaging or with the opportunity to purchase in their containers. Electronics should be manufactured with a view to long-term use with the possibility of repair and upgrade, as well as recycling. Clothing should also be of better quality and recyclable.

    5. Biodiversity. More than half of the world’s GDP, estimated at €40 trillion, depends on it. Therefore, the economy of all the states directly depends on the preservation of the environment. (You may read the broad explanation at our author’ column).

    Biodiversity loss threatens humanity by reducing the amount of plant and animal foods, water, medicines. The last are not in the sense of herbal tea for weight loss, but full-fledged drugs, such as drugs based on the peptide Hi1a from spider venom, which inhibit necrosis of brain neurons after a stroke.

    To preserve biodiversity, the Strategy primarily recommends increasing the area of ​​nature reserves to 30% of land and seas in the EU, as well as planting 3 billion trees by 2030. On organic farming and reducing pesticide use, the recommendations of the Biodiversity Strategy are fully in line with the Farm-to-Fork strategy we first described.

    Also among the recommendations of the Strategy are the restoration of free flow of at least 25,000 km of rivers in the EU and the annual attraction of €20 billion of investment in the conservation and restoration of biodiversity.

    6. Climate law. The above strategies are indeed powerful, but they need appropriate legislative support and financial incentives. The first is to provide this law. It is designed to transform politicians’ promises into responsibilities. The law will approve the 2050 climate neutrality target and propose a path to it. This will give European citizens and businesses the predictability, transparency and accountability they need for collective transformation.

    An additional condition for meeting the emission reduction target is the competitiveness of the economy and efficient consumption of resources, as well as the building of a fair and prosperous society.

    7. Adaptation. The climate is changing and some changes have become inevitable, so they need to adapt. The updated Strategy recommends to adapt smarter, faster and more systematically.

    Adaptation to climate change is an integral part of the EGD and enshrined in the proposed European Climate Pact. In order for the European Union to adapt to the effects of climate change by 2050, the Strategy recommends raising awareness of the impact of climate and adaptation decisions on the well-being of the population; carefully assess climate risks; accelerate adaptation in the EU and help increase resilience to climate change worldwide. The European Commission had finalized the strategy in June 2021.

    8. Sustainable industry. The European Union has a developed industry, which for years has set trends in production and consumption. At the beginning of 2020, it provided 35 million jobs in the EU. The strategy recommends further developing this sector towards a single market and digitalization. Only by joint efforts can this work be established in the most efficient way. The strategy envisages the creation of new, more environmentally friendly products, services and business models. Further development should be based on two principles: maintaining competitiveness and moving to climate neutrality by 2050.

    The most effective in reducing emissions in the industrial sector are the transition to clean energy consumption, energy and resource efficiency. This is where RES and digitalization will come in handy. RES will provide the sector with clean energy, and digitalization will provide efficient processes in production and logistics.

    The more new goods will be produced, the more energy, resources and steam will be consumed gases. The strategy recommends developing not production, but services for rent or joint ownership of any property.

    The Strategy also recommends launching a Fair Transformation Platform, where experts will advise and provide technical support for the most carbon-intensive regions and industries. Separately, the European Commission will support new “green” steelmaking technologies that will help make this process carbon neutral.

    For a fair transformation, the EU is also creating a separate mechanism that ensures the transition without leaving anyone behind. Support is targeted at the regions with the highest greenhouse gas emissions or the largest number of fossil fuel workers. Plans for a fair transition by 2030 will be developed. They will include ways to best address social, economic and environmental issues and identify the areas that will receive the most support.

    In addition to the above seven strategies, the European Commission is developing several other strategies: Pollution Elimination, Construction and Renovation, Sustainable Agriculture. They complement all the goals and mechanisms that we have already mentioned in the description of other strategies.

    Implementation of the IGD is a challenge of varying magnitude depending on the country and city. The Norwegian capital Oslo and the Polish mining town of Katowice have to spend different amounts of nerves of local politicians and funds to become equally sustainable, climate-neutral, and prosperous in 2050. Therefore, the EPC is localized (Green Deal Going Local). This does not mean that the Green Deal will be for everyone. This initiative will disseminate information on the successful implementation and enforcement of EGD strategies, and help address the challenges facing regions in this process.

    The climate ambitions of the European Union alone are not enough to overcome the climate crisis. All countries of the world should join this cause.

    You’ve got to start an eco-responsible tourist trip? Tackle a look at our author’s advice!

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