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by Jenni Davidson and Lorna Hutchinson
12 December 2019
European Commission launches green deal to make Europe first climate-neutral continent

Ursula von der Leyen - Image credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

European Commission launches green deal to make Europe first climate-neutral continent

The European Commission has launched a green deal with the aim of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

The plan is for Europe to have no net emissions of greenhouses gases in 2050 and for economic growth to be “decoupled” from increased use of resources.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called it “Europe’s man on the moon moment”.

Speaking ahead of a European Parliament debate with MEPs, von der Leyen said: “The European Green Deal is, on the one hand, our vision for a climate-neutral continent in 2050, and on the other hand a very dedicated roadmap whose goal is 50 actions for 2050.

“Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce, the way we consume, with our planet and to make it work for our people.

“The European Green Deal is on the one hand about cutting emissions, but on the other hand about creating jobs and boosting innovation.”

Von der Leyen said she was convinced that the old model of growth based on fossil fuels and pollution was “out of date and out of touch with our planet”.

“This is Europe’s man on the moon moment. The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will be very careful in assessing the impact of every single step we’re taking,” von der Leyen added.

The deal covers all sectors of the economy, most notably transport, energy, agriculture, buildings, and industries such as steel, cement, ICT, textiles and chemicals.

A new European climate law putting the 2050 target on a legal footing is expected to be introduced by March 2020, while the interim target for 2030 is to be made tougher.

By summer 2020, the European Commission will present a plan to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reductions target for 2030 to at least 50 per cent and up to 55 per cent compared with 1990 levels.

Also embedded in the green deal is the idea of a ‘just transition’ where nobody will be left behind by the changes and support will go to regions that particularly rely on carbon-intensive industries.

The deal is accompanied by a ‘roadmap’, a timetable of proposed dates for the creation of new action plans and strategies in specific areas.

The change required will involve “significant investment” of resources.

The European Commission said that achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets was estimated to require an additional €260bn, representing about 1.5 per cent of 2018 EU GDP.

At least 25 per cent of the EU's long-term budget should be dedicated to climate action, it said, with the European Investment Bank to provide further support

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for the European Green Deal, said: “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.

“We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation.

“Moreover, our responsibility is to make sure that this transition is a just transition, and that nobody is left behind as we deliver the European Green Deal.”

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