After being nominated to the position of President of the European Commission by the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen has set out her political guidelines for the 2019-2024 European Commission in the strategy, ‘A Union that strives for more’, presented to the European Parliament.

'Europe must lead the transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world. But it can only do so by bringing people together and upgrading our unique social market economy to fit today’s new ambitions,' she noted, setting out six headline ambitions, including a European Green Deal.

The European Green Deal aims to make Europe the world’s first climate neutral continent, and is composed of a number of ideas for legislative action, including a new European Climate Law to enshrine carbon-neutrality by 2050 into law. Von der Leyen has promised that the full proposal will be published in the first one hundred days of her leadership (early February 2020). The guidelines also set out the desire to increase the 2030 carbon reduction target to 55%.

Additional proposals include the extension of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to the maritime sector, traffic and construction, with the number of free allowances allocated to airlines to be reduced. A revision to the Energy Taxation Directive will help to boost the use of sustainable energy, and a Carbon Border Tax will be introduced to avoid carbon leakage.

The guidelines also propose a New Industrial Strategy and a New Circular Economy Action Plan, aiming to increase the use of circular economy principles and clean technologies, and decarbonise energy-intensive industries.

At the regional level, these initiatives will be supported with the structural and investment funds, as well as a new Just Transition Fund, to ensure that poorer regions can fund their low-carbon transition. Additional, the Commission will promote the European Climate Pact, an initiative to bring together regional authorities with local communities, industry and schools, to co-design regional pledges for behaviour change at individual and organisational levels.

The guidelines also spell out the intention to invest record amounts in cutting-edge research and innovation, and technology uptake, through both Horizon Europe, but also through the mobilisation of private investment. The Commission will promote a strategy for green financing and a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, aiming to support €1 trillion investment in the next decade, including doubling investment from the European Investment Bank into sustainable projects.

Finally, the guidelines set out a Biodiversity Strategy, develop a ‘Farm to fork’ strategy for sustainable food, invest in environmental protection, and put greater effort into tackling plastic waste, particularly micro-plastics.

For more information, see the document, ‘A Union that strives for more’. 

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