Europe is talking about a Green Deal and transforming into a sustainable economy, but some are questioning whether this is just talk or the real thing. How is it going to be enforced and who is going to pay for it. Luke Hurst writes about it (AP 14 January2020).
Brussels has unveiled its financial plan for moving to a green economy and making the EU climate neutral.
The ambition is to get at least €1 trillion of investment over the next ten years
The European Commission’s plan is to use a mix of private and public funds, including a quarter of the EU budget.
“The transformation ahead of us is unprecedented,” said EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the investment plan.
“And it will only work if it is just – and if it works for all.
“We will support our people and our regions that need to make bigger efforts in this transformation, to make sure that we leave no one behind.”
While the Green Deal is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality in the European Union by 2050, the EU also recently increased its emissions reductions target for 2030 to between 50 percent and 55 percent compared with 1990 levels.
Is everyone pulling in the same direction?
One EU member state, Poland, has so far refused to agree to the current timetable, due to its economy’s reliance on coal.
Poland currently produces around 80% of its power from coal.
Von der Leyen has said the transition should “leave no one behind”, and in order to help persuade countries like Poland to get on board with the EU’s climate goals, a €100 million Just Transition Fund has been proposed, as part of the overall budget.
The plan would allocate the money according to specific criteria. For example, regions — where a large number of people work in coal, peat mining or shale oil and gas — would get priority.
Around half of the overall €1 trillion is to come from the EU long-term budget, with national governments contributing €100 billion and €300 billion coming from the private sector.
Another €7.5 billion euros from the 2021-2027 EU budget is earmarked as seed funding within a broader mechanism expected to generate another €100 billion in investment.
The commission says the plan will also be supported by money from EU regional programmes, from the InvestEU program, which mobilises public and private investment using an EU budget guarantee, and the European Investment Bank.
What do environmentalists say?
There is concern the transition funding should include a phase-out date for fossils fuels.
“A climate-neutral Europe needs everyone to play their part,” said Katie Treadwell, energy policy officer at WWF European Policy Office.
“The proposed just transition mechanism is an important step towards making that happen.
“But a ‘just transition’ is not ‘just’ if regions are locked into unviable fossil fuels. It is not a ‘transition’ if there is no deadline for getting climate neutral. MEPs and EU Member States must improve the proposal so that regions show how and by when they will get free from gas, oil and coal.”
Sebastian Mang, from Greenpeace EU, was more targeted in his criticism.
“If this funding is really meant to promote a green transition, it must only be available to governments that are committed to that transition and have a clear plan to ditch coal. If they want the cash, the likes of Poland and the Czech Republic will have to prove they are serious about tackling the climate emergency.
“For the European Green Deal to be successful, all funding, including from the EU budget, needs to stop supporting fossil fuels, nuclear energy and other destructive industries.”
Johan Van Overtveldt, the head of the EU parliament’s Budget Committee, was sceptical about how the scheme set-up.
“It carries a one-trillion euros prize tag,“” he said. ““Where the money should be coming from remains extremely unclear. We are against the recycling of promises and money. We don’t back creative bookkeeping and financial adventures.”
What are the next steps?
On Wednesday, MEPs will have their say on the Green Deal and vote on a resolution.
The EU aims to have the Green Deal enshrined in law with the first European ‘Climate Law’ by March this year, which it says will set out the conditions for transition, provide predictability for investors, and ensure the transition to carbon neutrality is irreversible.
At the Paris summit in 2015 world leaders agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 C (2.7 F) by the end of the century.
Scientists say countries will miss both of those goals by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to begin cutting greenhouse gas emissions next year.