By Blanca Trepat*
The COVID-19 crisis has shaken Europe and the whole world by testing our societies, economies and our way of living together. This global pandemic has quickly led to one of the most drastic economic crises of our history. In this context, the European Union has had to react to repair the damage that this crisis has left and take the opportunity to think of a more resilient system for the future generations to come.
As part of the COVID-19 recovery, the Commission referred to the Green Deal as one of the core pieces. The European Green Deal was announced through a Communication from the EU Commission in December 2019 and is the roadmap for a green economic and social recovery. Initially, the Green Deal was created as a response to tackle climate and environmental related challenges that the current generations are facing and also, as a proof of international leadership from Europe in sustainable solutions. The Green Deal rethinks policies in the fields of industry, clean energy, supply across the economy, large-scale infrastructure, food and agriculture, taxation and social benefits. The Commission works closely with the Member States to step up the EU’s efforts and ensure that the policies relevant to the Green Deal will be correctly implemented.
The COVID-19 crisis came without a warning for the Green Deal which was slowly coming together. For the European Union, this pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges it has had to overcome while it is also offering the possibility to come up with stronger and more unifying legislation. For instance, the Green Deal is also a momentum to redefine what creates value in the economy. Indeed, the Commission has ensured in different circumstances that this health crisis will not compromise the green transition but it will rather give an occasion to shift from a linear economy to a more sustainable one. In order to live up to the extraordinary challenge, the Commission proposed a new instrument called Next Generation EU with a long-term EU budget, which will put €1.85 trillion to bounce Europe back and help kick-start the economy. Despite the efforts made by the EU and funds mobilised, the recovery is expected to be long.
In this context, it is fair to ask how we can combine a green transition with economic recovery while facing the toughest global pandemic of the last centuries. What is the role of the Green Deal in all this? The European Green Deal should still be seen as Europe’s growth strategy which, as mentioned above, is taking the challenge to grow even stronger and give us the time to adopt green measures that are able to contribute to economic growth and a job-creating engine. To make sure that we use its full potential, the Next Generation EU, one of the newest EU recovery instruments, should leverage competitive sustainability while helping unlock private investment. Many policies are currently being developed in this regard to contribute to a more stable sustainable finance that encourage environmental and social investments.
New technologies will also play a key role in this recovery plan especially by investing in clean energy transition, batteries, carbon capture and storage and sustainable energy infrastructure. Proposals will soon come from the Commission to better integrate the energy system.
Together with the EU Green Deal, the EU has been working on other long-term objectives, such as the achievement of climate neutrality by 2050. To ensure that this transition is happening, the first so called European “Climate Law” was proposed last March 2020 to turn political promises into real action and enshrine the 2050 climate neutrality objective in legislation. In connection to this, the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, recently announced in September their support for a reduction in the EU’s greenhouse gas emission targets to at least a 55% by 2030, while the EU Parliament showed their commitment to a reduction target of at least 60%. This now remains to be discussed at the Council among the Member States where a result is expected by the end of this year.
Moreover, the protection and restoration of biodiversity will take one step further as key elements to boosting resilience and preventing the spread of future outbreaks. InvestEU will mobilise at least €10 billion over the next 10 years in new natural capital and circular-economy initiatives. It is difficult to say whether the same amount of observance would have been given to these policies if we would not be going through this COVID-19 pandemic.
What is safe to say is that the Green Deal has been labelled in the current context as the “Green Marshall Plan”. It has turned a challenge into an opportunity to expand sustainable and job-intensive economic activity while the circular economy will offer a great potential for new jobs and activities.
All in all, Europe’s recovery will be slow but the current COVID-19 crisis is giving the perfect timing to redesign and rebuild the economy in alignment with the principles of the European Green Deal so that the recovery will not be “business as usual” but rather green and fair.
- Communication from the EU Commission on the European Green Deal, December 2019: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/european-green-deal-communication_en.pdf
- Communication from the EU Commission on Europe’s moment: Repair and Prepare for the Next Generation, May 2020: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1590732521013&uri=COM:2020:456:FIN
- InvestEU Program: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/jobs-growth-and-investment/investment-plan-europe-juncker-plan/whats-next-investeu-programme-2021-2027_en.
- The end of “business as usual”? COVID-19 and the European Green Deal, Egmont Institute Belgium, May 2020: https://www.egmontinstitute.be/content/uploads/2020/05/EPB60.pdf?type=pdf
Blanca is a guest contributor at Unfiltered Voices. She studied her for her BA in Law at ESADE Law Faculty of Barcelona (Spain) and graduated in European Law during her MA degree at Maastricht University (The Netherlands). She specialised in Environmental Law and has been working in the field of climate and environmental policy for the last two years both for the private and public sector in Brussels (Belgium).