As previously announced, the von der Leyen Commission has now launched its communication on the European Green Deal, setting out forty-seven actions to be implemented in 2020 and 2021, to set Europe on the track to being the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 that also uses resources sustainably.

Launching the Communication, von der Leyen made clear the link between sustainability and economic growth, announcing that, 'the European Green Deal is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away.' As well as supporting growth in Europe, the GND is also intended to position Europe as a world-leader. 'By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.'

Here are the essential highlights for the low-carbon economy:

  • Climate Ambition

The production and use of energy accounts for more than 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, requiring development of alternative, cleaner sources of energy and improved efficiency of use. By March 2020, the Commission will publish a European Climate Law, setting a legal target of a carbon neutral continent by 2050. To help in reaching this, the Commission proposes to amend the 2030 targets to 50 or 55% and make corresponding revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive and Energy Efficiency Directive in 2021. New fiscal proposals will include a revision of the Energy Taxation Directive and a new carbon border adjustment mechanism. An EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change will be published by 2021.

  • Clean, affordable and secure energy

Under the current Renewable Energy Directive, all EU Member States have devised National Energy and Climate Plans, with the Commission to assess them by June 2020 to judge their completeness. By the end of 2020, the Commission will also adopt a ‘Renovation Wave Initiative’ for the building sector, an evaluation of the Trans-Europe Network - Energy Regulation, and a strategy on offshore wind.

  • Sustainable and smart mobility

The transport sector is responsible for a quarter of EU greenhouse gas emissions, but is proving the most difficult to reduce. The Commission will launch a new strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, exploring automated and connected multimodal mobility, and a funding call to support the deployment of public recharging and refuelling points as part of alternative fuel infrastructure. 

  • Mainstreaming sustainability in all EU policies

The transition to a more sustainable Europe will require the involvement of all policy sectors, and funds and policy instruments need to pull in the same direction. This includes ensuring that EU funds are correctly oriented. In January 2020, the Commission will publish its proposal for a Just Transition Mechanism, composed of the Just Transition Fund and a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, drawing from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank. The Mechanism will focus on regions and sectors most affected by the transition.

The European Investment Bank will aim to target 50% of its investments into climate-friendly activities, and the European Structural and Investment Funds will be streamlined to reach the goals of the European Green Deal. The Sustainable Development Goals will be integrated into the European Semester assessment of Member State economic and structural reforms, with recommendations to be targeted at each member on how they can improve their performance. 

  • Mobilising research and fostering innovation

Horizon Europe will act as a vital tool in supporting the transition by targeting 35% of its budget towards new solutions that can support the Green Deal. Four ‘Green Deal Missions’ will be established on climate change adaptation, oceans and seas, smart cities and soil health. Partnerships with industry will support research in transport (including batteries), clean hydrogen, and the built environment, and the new European Innovation Council will support highly innovative green SMEs.

For more information, see the communication on the European Green Deal and its timeline, as well as the Commission Q&A and Factsheets.

Image credit: photo by Pixabay from Pexels