Nearly every major aspect of the European economy is to be re-evaluated in light of the imperatives of the climate and ecological emergency, according to sweeping new plans set out by the European commission on Wednesday.
The comprehensive nature of the European Green Deal – which encompasses the air we breathe to how food is grown, from how we travel to the buildings we inhabit – was set out in a flurry of documents as Ursula von der Leyen, the new commission president, made her appeal to member states and parliamentarians in Brussels to back the proposals, which would represent the biggest overhaul of policy since the foundation of the modern EU.
Von der Leyen said the package was aimed at economic growth and increasing prosperity. “[This] is our new growth strategy, for a growth that gives back more than it takes away,” she said. “It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming, so that we live healthier [lives] and make our businesses innovate. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast.”
As well as bidding to lead the world on climate action with a proposed target of net-zero carbon by 2050 and halving emissions by 2030, the EU will delve far more deeply into the root problems that contribute to carbon emissions and pollution. For instance, in manufacturing: in previous decades, the EU was content to set targets for recycling rates; under the European Green Deal, regulators would set specific standards on the manufacturing of goods to create a circular economy and phase out unnecessary plastic and other waste before it is created.
From 2021, at least 40% of the budget for the common agricultural policy and 30% of fisheries subsidies would be devoted to tackling climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, instead of contributing to higher emissions and environmental degradation, as many of these subsidies do at present.
Toxic air and its health impacts would be tackled through tougher air quality requirements, and energy targets would be raised to generate more energy from renewable sources, up to 100% by 2050. More freight would be transported by rail and water, and greenhouse gas emissions from air travel would be reduced.
The emissions reduction target for 2030 was proposed at a level of 50-55%, with a new law enshrining the commitment to net zero carbon for 2050. As an inducement to the member states reluctant to sign up to the 2030 and 2050 targets – Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary – Von der Leyen promised€100bn (£84bn) to help finance the transition to a low-carbon economy, along with the potential for a carbon border tax to be levied on imports to the EU from countries without sufficiently stringent carbon targets of their own.