April 11, 2020
On Friday, 350.org welcomed a new demand from 11 member nations of the European Union to use the continent’s Green Deal policy guidelines as a framework for economic recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We have a choice to make now: do we try to tackle one crisis while ignoring another, or do we decide to build back better by tackling the two together, and create a fairer, more prosperous, and sustainable future for us all?” —Nick Bryer, 350.org Europe
The call for making the European Green Deal “central to a resilient recovery after COVID-19” came Thursday in an open letter signed by the environment and climate ministers from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. France signed on Friday.
“The countries that have signed this letter are absolutely right to say that the E.U. should use the Green Deal as a starting point for their economic recovery efforts,” Nick Bryer, a senior campaigner at 350.org Europe, said in a statement. “The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact on people’s livelihoods across Europe and around the world,” he added, “and it is right that E.U. governments and institutions are taking extraordinary measures to minimize this.”
The European Green Deal was introduced in December by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm. Some advocacy groups have charged that the proposal—which came less than two weeks after the European Parliament declared a climate emergency—isn’t adequately ambitious.
Despite persistent critiques of the continent’s Green Deal, the ministers’ new letter was embraced by Oil Change International in a tweet Friday.
The letter noted that after meeting about the coronavirus outbreak by video in March, E.U. leaders ordered (pdf) the European Commission to start developing a comprehensive recovery plan featuring “the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of our societies and economies and to sustainable growth, integrating inter alia the green transition and the digital transformation, and drawing all lessons from the crisis.“
E.U. leaders’ mention of the green transition last month was welcomed by Ester Asin, director of the WWF’s European Policy Office, who told Euractiv that “a truly ambitious, people-centered European Green Deal must be part of the response and will leave Europe better equipped to tackle the ongoing climate and biodiversity emergencies.”
The ministers concurred in their open letter Thursday, declaring that “the Green Deal provides us with a roadmap to make the right choices in responding to the economic crisis while transforming Europe into a sustainable and climate neutral economy.”
The letter acknowledged the “tremendous human tragedy and a historical economic setback” caused by the pandemic and argued that “the lesson from the COVID-19 crisis is that early action is essential. Therefore, we need to maintain ambition in order to mitigate the risks and costs of inaction from climate change and biodiversity losses.”
“We should withstand the temptations of short-term solutions in response to the present [coronavirus] crisis that risk locking the E.U. in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come,” the letter read. “Instead, we must remain resolved to increase the E.U.’s 2030 target before the end of this year adhering to the timetable of the Paris agreement despite the postponement of COP26, and inspire other global players to raise their ambition as well.“
“The Green Deal provides us with a roadmap to make the right choices in responding to the economic crisis while transforming Europe into a sustainable and climate neutral economy.” —11 European ministers
As Common Dreams reported in March, environmental advocates worldwide have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak by pushing policymakers to learn from the public health crisis as pursue a global Green New Deal in an effort to both promote economic recovery and address the climate emergency.
“After the financial crash in 2008, the E.U. saved the banks, and ordinary citizens paid the price with a decade of austerity,” 350.org’s Bryer said Friday. “As another recession looms, mega-rich polluting corporations, like oil and gas companies, are already trying to seize the moment to secure themselves financial support.”
“But we are also in the midst of a climate crisis,” he added, “and we have a choice to make now: do we try to tackle one crisis while ignoring another, or do we decide to build back better by tackling the two together, and create a fairer, more prosperous, and sustainable future for us all?”
350.org has joined with hundreds of groups fighting for a “just recovery” to the virus outbreak and emphasizing the importance of considering “the interrelated crises of wealth inequality, racism, and ecological decline—notably the climate crisis—which were in place long before COVID-19, and now risk being intensified.”
Specifically, the organizations assert that responses to the pandemic at all levels must uphold the following principles:
- Put people’s health first, no exceptions: Resource health services everywhere; ensure access for all.
- Provide economic relief directly to the people: Focus on people and workers—particularly those marginalized in existing systems—our short-term needs and long-term conditions.
- Help workers and communities, not corporate executives: Assistance directed at specific industries must be channeled to communities and workers, not shareholders or corporate executives, and never to corporations that don’t commit to tackling the climate crisis.
- Create resilience for future crises: We must create millions of decent jobs that will help power a just recovery and transition for workers and communities to the zero-carbon future we need.
- Build solidarity and community across borders—don’t empower authoritarians: Transfer technology and finance to lower-income countries and communities to allow them to respond using these principles and share solutions across borders and communities. Do not use the crisis as an excuse to trample on human rights, civil liberties, and democracy.
As of press time Friday, there were more than 1.677 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 101,000 related deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. The E.U. members hardest hit by the public health crisis include Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.
While France endorsed the letter after facing criticism for not being an orignial signatory, Germany has not yet caved to such pressure.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel “was once hailed as a climate champion, but her crown is long lost and gathering dust,” Sebastian Bock, a senior campaigner with 350.org in Germany, said Friday. “Germany’s absence from this important list of European signatories shows, yet again, that all Merkel has left to offer is words without substance.”
“In January the chancellor weakened her government’s own commitments on a domestic coal phase-out,” added Bock. “Now, during this unprecedented moment in time that calls for solidarity and international cooperation, the German government is undermining E.U. efforts to simultaneously rejuvenate our economies to support the people and also tackle the climate crisis.”Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
European Green Deal must be central to a resilient recovery after Covid-19
Published on 09/04/2020, 6:33pm
Comment: We must not lose sight of the persisting climate and ecological crisis when working out how to spur the economy after the coronavirus pandemic
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: European Parliament/Flickr)
The world is facing an unprecedented crisis. In just a few weeks, the Covid-19 pandemic has swept across the world and caused tremendous human tragedy and a historical economic setback of which we still do not know the full impact.
Our societies have shut down, borders are closed, unemployment is on the rise and companies are struggling.
The focus is presently on fighting the pandemic and its immediate consequences.
We should, however, begin to prepare ourselves to rebuild our economy and to introduce the necessary recovery plans to bring renewed, sustainable progress and prosperity back to Europe and its citizens.
While doing so, we must not lose sight of the persisting climate and ecological crisis. Building momentum to fight this battle has to stay high on the political agenda.
The lesson from the Covid-19 crisis is that early action is essential. Therefore, we need to maintain ambition in order to mitigate the risks and costs of inaction from climate change and biodiversity losses.
We cannot afford setbacks that can have detrimental effects on our climate, biodiversity and environment as well as on human health and our economies.
These crises have reminded us that answers need to be found in a concerted manner through a common European response.
The EU’s capacity to act depends largely on our ability to work together in solidarity to build the bridge between fighting Covid-19, biodiversity loss and climate change.
We therefore strongly welcome that the Heads of States and Governments on 26 March invited the Commission to start working on a comprehensive EU recovery plan integrating the green transition and digital transformation.
We call on the Commission to use the European Green Deal as a framework for this exercise and thereby to keep momentum by implementing its initiatives.
The Green Deal constitutes a new growth strategy for the EU, which is able to deliver on the twin benefits of stimulating economies and creating jobs while accelerating the green transition in a cost efficient way.
For example, the objective of climate neutrality by 2050 as well as a strong policy framework ensures a stable and forward-looking investment environment for Europe’s businesses, which is an essential precondition for green growth and job creation.
In addition, we encourage the Commission to look into elements of the Green Deal, including the European Green Deal Investment Plan, which can be pushed forward to boost green recovery and a just transition.
We need to scale up investments, notably in the fields of sustainable mobility, renewable energy, building renovations, research and innovation, the recovery of biodiversity and the circular economy.
The Green Deal provides us with a roadmap to make the right choices in responding to the economic crisis while transforming Europe into a sustainable and climate neutral economy.
We should withstand the temptations of short-term solutions in response to the present crisis that risk locking the EU in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come.
Instead, we must remain resolved to increase the EU’s 2030 target before the end of this year adhering to the timetable of the Paris agreement despite the postponement of Cop26, and inspire other global players to raise their ambition as well.
In that light we are pleased that the Commission is on track to present by September 2020 an impact assessed plan to raise the EU’s 2030 ambitions and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50-55% compared to 1990 levels.
Furthermore, we need to maintain and strengthen EU’s effective regulatory tools such as the Emissions Trading Scheme, environment standards and sectoral policies, and make them more effective at reducing emissions in the most cost effective way while providing a path for European businesses into the future green and circular economy.
We need to send a strong political signal to the world and our citizens that the EU will lead by example even in difficult times like the present and blaze the trail to climate neutrality and the fulfilment of the Paris Agreement.
In the same vein, urgent action to protect and conserve biodiversity must be a key part of our response to the global health and environmental crisis and a key aspect to ensure the long-term survival and well-being of our societies.
Leonore Gewessler Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology of Austria
Dan Jørgensen Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities of Denmark
Krista Mikkonen Minister of the Environment and Climate Change of Finland
Sergio Costa Minister of Environment, Land and Sea of Italy
Juris Pūce Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia
Carole Dieschbourg Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development of Luxembourg
Eric Wiebes Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands
João Pedro Soeiro de Matos Fernandes Minister for Environment and Climate Action of Portugal
Teresa Ribera Rodríguez Fourth Vice-President of the Government and Minister for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge of Spain
Isabella Lövin Minister for Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Élisabeth Borne Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition of France
Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany
Kostas Hatzidakis, Minister of Environment and Energy, Greece
Updated on 11/04/20 to add Germany and Greece as signatories.
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The European Commission today presented The European Green Deal – a roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all.
President Ursula von der Leyen said: ‘The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away. It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming so that we live healthier and make our businesses innovative. We can all be involved in the transition and we can all benefit from the opportunities. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.‘
Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans added ‘We are in a climate and environmental emergency. The European Green Deal is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model. Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens. We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation. Moreover, our responsibility is to make sure that this transition is a just transition, and that nobody is left behind as we deliver the European Green Deal.’
The European Green Deal provides a roadmap with actions to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy and stop climate change, revert biodiversity loss and cut pollution. It outlines investments needed and financing tools available, and explains how to ensure a just and inclusive transition.
The European Green Deal covers all sectors of the economy, notably transport, energy, agriculture, buildings, and industries such as steel, cement, ICT, textiles and chemicals.
To set into legislation the political ambition of being the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050, the Commission will present within 100 days the first ‘European Climate Law’. To reach our climate and environmental ambition, the Commission will also present the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the new Industrial Strategy and Circular Economy Action Plan, the Farm to Fork Strategy for sustainable food and proposals for pollution-free Europe. Work will immediately start for upping Europe’s 2030 emissions targets, setting a realistic path to the 2050 goal.
Meeting the objectives of the European Green Deal will require significant investment. Achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets is estimated to require €260 billion of additional annual investment, representing about 1.5% of 2018 GDP. This investment will need the mobilisation ofthe public and private sectors. The Commission will present in early 2020 a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to help meet investment needs. At least 25% of the EU’s long-term budget should be dedicated to climate action, and the European Investment Bank, Europe’s climate bank, will provide further support. For the private sector to contribute to financing the green transition, the Commission will present a Green Financing Strategy in 2020.
Fighting climate change and environmental degradation is a common endeavour but not all regions and Member States start from the same point. A Just Transition Mechanism will support those regions that rely heavily on very carbon intensive activities. It will support the citizens most vulnerable to the transition, providing access to reskilling programmes and employment opportunities in new economic sectors.
In March 2020, the Commission will launch a ‘Climate Pact’ to give citizens a voice and role in designing new actions, sharing information, launching grassroots activities and show-casing solutions that others can follow.
The global challenges of climate change and environmental degradation require a global response. The EU will continue to promote its environmental goals and standards in the UN’s Biodiversity and Climate Conventions and reinforce its green diplomacy. The G7, G20, international conventions, and bilateral relationships will be used to persuade others to step up their efforts. The EU will also use trade policy to ensure sustainability and it will build partnerships with its neighbours in the Balkans and Africa to help them with their own transitions.
The Commission invites the European Parliament and the European Council to endorse the Commission’s ambition for Europe’s future economy and the environment and to help realise it. The Commission will bring forward the measures announced in the European Green Deal roadmap.
Climate change and environmental degradation present an existential threat to Europe and the world. To overcome this challenge, Europe needs a new growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, where economic growth is decoupled from resource use and where no one and no place is left behind.
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. But more needs to be done. The EU, given its extensive experience, is leading the way in creating a green and inclusive economy.
The Green Deal Communication sets the path for action in the months and years ahead. The Commission’s future work will be guided by the public’s demand for action and by undeniable scientific evidence as demonstrated most comprehensively by IPCC, IPBES, Global Resources Outlook and EEA SOER 2019 reports. Our proposals will be evidence-based and underpinned by broad consultation.
An overwhelming majority of Europeans consider that protecting the environment is important (95%). Almost 8 in 10 Europeans (77%) say that protection of the environment can boost economic growth. The results of the Eurobarometer survey concerning environmental attitudes of EU citizens confirm the wide public support for environmental legislation at EU level and EU funding for environmentally friendly activities.
For More information
President von der Leyen’s Political Guidelines.