By Viola King Forbes
Recently appointed President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen has pledged to make climate change her signature focus. This is reflected in her inaugural plans for the ‘EU Green Deal’, a promise to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050.
The highly ambitious aims of the Green Deal echo those of US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Von Der Leyen has gone so far as to analogise it as ‘Europe’s man on the moon moment’.
Ten goals laid out by the commission include the overarching objective of climate neutrality, to be enshrined in climate law proposed in March of this year. This will be accompanied by aims for:
Larry Elliott, The Guardian’s economics editor, and mastermind behind the first whispers of a Green New Deal in 2007, warned that the scheme, in its matured stage in the US and now also in the EU, was at risk of becoming ‘a theory of everything’, perceivable not as ‘green’, but in fact ‘red’.
Labelled by many merely as a communist manifesto, the deal has already faced attacks, the commission accused of ‘tyrannical’ behaviour, ‘sacrificing life in pursuit of utopia’. Such criticism parallels Poland’s decision to opt out of the 2050 emissions target. Concerns over energy security in a country reliant on coal for 80% of its electricity reflect a lack of faith in the EU’s ability to source promised €100billion transition funds.
However, the commission also faces criticism for not having done enough. Dr Tadzio Muller of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation stated three issues with the deal.
Anticipating such accusations of idealism from multiple angles, Von Der Leyen has attempted to placate all. With action conditional on protection against competition, this ‘deal by Europe, for Europe’ therefore runs the risk of meeting the same fate as previous climate action by attempting compromise.
Many deals, from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement, and the most recent Conference of Parties in Madrid, demonstrate a consensus on the urgent need for climate action, but have gone little further. Likewise, the new EU Green Deal demonstrates the right intent. It acknowledges the action need to effectively address the climate crisis which will requires efforts on a scale comparable to putting man on the moon. Yet, evidence of hesitation remains.
Two scenarios await us. Either we face a climate disaster in pursuit of protectionism-fueled growth, or we attempt an economic transformation founded on sustainability. Turmoil is imminent regardless; until legislators accept this, gridlock remains inevitable.
The EU Green Deal represents progress; change is possible, and in the long term, beneficial. However, if we want control over our future, there must be no compromises to ideals of economic growth. Attempting to fulfill every promise will only result in us failing to deliver them all.
OCS Media Team
The latest in climate science, policy, perspectives and more from the OCS team.