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The EU Outlines Plans for Ambitious and “Just” Transition to the World’s First Climate-Neutral Continent


The new European Green Deal, unveiled on December 11, 2019, sets out an ambitious package of measures to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. With plans to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 this roadmap will affect nearly every sector of the economy, including energy, transport, buildings, finance and agriculture. The Commission proposes to enshrine these measures in the first European Climate Law by March this year. Specific proposals include increasing the current target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the current 40 per cent to at least 50 per cent by 2030 (compared to the 1990 baseline). 

The European Green Deal suggests ambitious changes to seven policy areas, all of which sit within a commitment to both an increase in financing and a fair and just transition for all EU member states. 

  1. Supplying clean, affordable and secure energy
  2. Mobilizing industry for a clean and circular economy
  3. Building and renovating in an energy and resource efficient way
  4. Accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility
  5. From "Farm to Fork": designing a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system
  6. Preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
  7. A zero-pollution ambition for a toxin-free environment

Financing a Just Transition

To meet these ambitious plans, the Commission estimates that an additional investment of EUR 260 billion annually is needed, requiring mobilization of both the public and private sectors. The forthcoming Sustainable Europe Investment Plan is set to lay out further details and includes stronger financial commitments from the EU Budget, the InvestEU Fund and the European Investment Bank. 

In recognition that certain countries and regions have more to do and are more affected by the harmful effects of climate change, the proposed Just Transition Mechanism will mobilize EUR 100 billion to assist these areas and ensure a fair and inclusive transition.

Economic sectors and countries particularly dependent on polluting industries and the fossil fuel economy see these plans as controversial. Countries such as Poland, Hungary and Ukraine, but also parts of Germany, have blocked proposals to increase carbon emissions targets in the past. Against this background, there are valid concerns that the Commission may face challenges in securing backing from all member states for its European Green Deal. Nonetheless, at the launch last month, the Commission's President commented that while the “goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet” and “to make it work for our people” she vowed “no-one will be left behind.” And step by step, the European Commission is providing more clarity on how they are putting their plan into action.