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Von der Leyen’s Green Europe. Green Deal: necessary, expensive, promising

Countering climate change requires a radical energy shift and a long and challenging "transition.” Yesterday the EU Commission presented a proposal to Parliament, to be submitted to the European Council today. Cost-intensive actions and investments to make the economy sustainable and improve the quality of life. New initiatives must also include transport, agriculture, consumption... COMECE’s endorsement to "promote a real ecological conversion”

“Europe’s man on the moon moment”: Ursula von der Leyen emphatically highlighted the European Green Deal, which aims to turn the European Union into the world’s leading “climate-neutral” continent, with zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The interim goal is at least 50-55% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2030 (the target was at 40%). In other words, a greener, climate-responsible Europe, moving towards a sustainable economy and a better quality of life.

Costs and rewards. But its implementation involves very high costs. First of all, action must be taken on energy consumption, with a stop to coal and fuel, increasing energy saving and use of clean sources. Industry and the mining sector must be reconverted. A step change in transport energy is essential (“intelligent mobility”): increased passenger and freight trains, environmentally friendly cars, decreased air travel, fewer lorries and polluting cars. The same applies to home heatingA number of industrial production sectors are involved (textiles, chemicals, etc.), agriculture (fertilisers, pesticides), as well as – in a positive way – the protection of natural heritage and marine life, and a shift in private consumption (e.g. food production, packaging, trade and distribution, “zero km food”). This “transition” – the recurring word – would, according to the Commission, involve 260 billion euros in investments each year, but the cost of “inaction” would, in the view of the Commission, be even higher, estimated at billions of Euros and in diseases and deaths resulting from an increasingly polluted and hostile environment. In addition to environmental and climate benefits, there is also the prospect of new jobs in more technologically advanced sectors. The Executive is pushing for a progressive but unavoidable reduction in fossil fuels, used throughout the continent, particularly in Eastern Europe. The Commission therefore proposes the creation of a €100 billion fund to ensure support to European sectors and regions that will need to switch to clean energy, with 50 additional practical steps to be taken as early as 2020, ranging from the creation of electric vehicle charging stations to the protection of biodiversity.

A “just” and “inclusive” transition. “A roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable” that will “turn climate and environmental challenges into opportunities” thereby making the transition “just and inclusive for all”, said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her remarks for the presentation of the European Green Deal. Today, President Von der Leyen will address the European Council to explain the key points of the Green Deal, discussed with MEPs during a dedicated plenary session yesterday. The Executive’s proposal will have to be turned into laws (the first of which will be a “climate law”), actions and investments to be decided by the Council (i.e. the governments of the Member States, including Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, which have already declared their opposition) and the European Parliament. “the European Green Deal is our new growth strategy that gives more back than it takes away.” It’s about transforming “the way we produce, the way we consume, to improve the quality of life and boost innovation”, Von der Leyen said speaking at the European Parliament. “We are determined to ensure that this strategy is successful for the good of the planet and its life. We can show the rest of the world that we can be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to join us.” Indeed the “green transformation” can’t stop at Europe if the whole Planet is in danger. In fact the Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, will present the Green Deal at Cop25 Climate Conference in Madrid.

Green funding. Meeting the objectives of the Green Deal (https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-181464) will require “significant investment”: acknowledged the same Commission President in a key passage of her speech – a veritable “stumbling block” that will be hard to overcome – on the new Climate agreement. “Achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets is estimated to require €260 billion of additional annual investment, representing about 1.5% of 2018 GDP, that will need the mobilisation of the public and private sectors.” These substantial and extraordinary investments have raised many objections from MEPs. “At least 25% of the EU’s long-term budget should be dedicated to climate action, and the European Investment Bank, Europe’s climate bank, will provide further support. For the private sector to contribute to financing the green transition, the Commission will present a Green Financing Strategy in 2020.”

A law on climate. The Green Deal – clarified the experts in Brussels – covers all sectors of the economy, notably transport, energy, agriculture, buildings, and industries such as steel, cement, ICT, textiles and chemicals.” To set into legislation the political ambition of being the world’s first zero-emissions continent by 2050, the Commission “will present within 100 days – pointed out Ursula von der Leyen – the first ‘European Climate Law.” The Commission will also present the “Biodiversity Strategy for 2030”, the new circular economy action plan, the “Farm to Fork Strategy” for sustainable food.

Investments and Stability Pact. Frans Timmermans pointed out: “We are in a climate and environmental emergency. The European Green Deal is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model. Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens.” He reiterated: “We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation.” But – legitimate question – will green investments be excluded by the Stability Pact? “We are discussing it – Timmermans replied –. But I am not naive and I know that this could become a pretext for not complying with the Pact.”

COMECE’s endorsement. Yesterday, while the Commission was presenting its proposal, also COMECE (Commission of the Episcopates of the European Union) endorsed the European Green Deal. “It’s very important that Europe takes the lead in caring for the environment, the Secretary General of COMECE, Don Manuel Barrios Prieto, told SIR. “It is likewise recommended that the EU institutions extend their action beyond the Green Deal, promoting a real ecological conversion towards a more sustainable society also for future generations, by means of a just transition that leaves no one behind.”

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