C. Maciver Cowan, ‘The EU sets out to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050’

Author: Caitie Maciver Cowan

On 11 December 2019 the European Commission presented the European Green Deal, outlining their progressive policy initiatives aimed at putting Europe on track to attain net-zero global warming emissions by 2050. President Ursula von der Leyen has supported the proposals, stating: “We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it.” The European Green deal focuses on boosting the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean circular economy so that the problems causing the climate emergency can be addressed. In pursuit of these targets the EU will concentrate on clean energy, sustainable industry, building and renovating, sustainable mobility, biodiversity, sustainable food systems and eliminating pollution.


The EU plans to look further than just the net-zero carbon target and proposes to look into the core issues of the economic structure that result in carbon emissions and pollution. Most EU member states have signed up to the goal of a climate neutral EU by 2050, demanding dramatic change in energy use, farming, housing, transport, trade and diplomacy. The Commission will propose a European Climate Law turning the political commitment into a legal obligation and a trigger for investment.


Policy initiatives include decarbonising the energy sector; supporting renovation of buildings to help people cut their energy bills and usage; supporting industry to innovate and become global leaders in the green economy; and rolling out cleaner, cheaper and healthier forms of private and public transport. As part of ensuring the 2050 target is reached, the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 has been updated to a 50-55% reduction in greenhouse emissions.


EU leaders have reached an agreement on targets set in the deal, but Poland has opted out of the target as the nation is still heavily dependent on coal. The Czech Republic and Hungary were also reluctant but have agreed after receiving assurance that nuclear energy could be included.  The EU have acknowledged that it is harder for some countries to adapt, therefore Poland has been exempted for the time being.  Von der Leyen has insisted that “it is acceptable for a country that has come a long way and has many coal-dependent regions, that is needs more time to go through the details. But it will not change the timeframe of the Commission.”


A Just Transition Mechanism will be set up in order to support regions that rely heavily on very carbon intensive activities, allocating €100 billion to help businesses adjust to greener ways of production.


The Climate Law will include a climate-neutrality target regardless and given that the issue is environment-based, member states will only have to reach a qualified majority to see it pass into law. The issue will be returned to next June and European Council President Charles Michel has said that the EU will continue to work to persuade Poland to support the deal.


The Commission have admitted that meeting these objectives will require significant investment and anticipates that €260 billion (about 1.5% of 2018 GDP) of additional annual investment will be required to meet these targets. The Commission will present a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan in early 2020 to help meet investment needs.


The European Parliament and European Council have been invited to endorse the Commission’s ambition for Europe’s future economy and the environment and to help realise it.


More information on the European Green Deal can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_19_6691



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