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EU Commission presents European Green Deal

12 December 2019

The European Commission (EC) has presented the European Green Deal—a roadmap that envisages Europe to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050. For the climate policies to become law, the European Green Deal still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council.

The new EC president Ursula von der Leyen described the European Green Deal as EU’s “new growth strategy—for a growth that gives back more than it takes away”.

The main components of the deal are:

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which are reliant on coal power, have yet to commit to the EU’s goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The €100 billion “Just Transition Fund” is envisaged to help those countries with the switch away from fossil fuels, although the amount will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027.

In essence, the deal envisions ever-lasting economic growth, while government support and (taxpayer funded) subsidies are redirected from the fossil fuel and related industries to the new “green capitalism” sector. The ambitious goals of the deal rest on a number of assumptions of both technical and political nature. One of the key assumptions is that continuing economic growth is possible even though the energy input to the economy and the associated GHG emissions are decreasing—a trend commonly referred to as “decoupling” of the economic growth from energy and resource consumption.

In its press release, the EC argues that “The European Union already has a strong track record in reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases while maintaining economic growth. Emissions in 2018 were 23% lower than in 1990 while the Union’s GDP grew by 61% in the same period.” However, these figures are by no means a proof of “decoupling” of the EU economy. Rather, they seem to reflect the trend of outsourcing of energy-intensive manufacturing to China and other emerging economies, which caused a significant increase in GHG emissions in those countries and has contributed to the continuing increase in global GHG emissions.

A recent report by the European Environmental Bureau, based on hundreds of scientific studies, found that efforts to decouple economic growth from environmental harm have not succeeded and are unlikely to succeed in their aim. Although decoupling is useful and necessary, the literature reviewed in the report shows that there is no empirical evidence for such a decoupling currently happening. This is the case for materials, energy, water, greenhouse gases, land, water pollutants, and biodiversity loss for which decoupling is either only relative, and/or observed only temporarily, and/or only locally—concluded the report.

Source: European Commission | Deutsche Welle