In the face of the climate emergency and with the aim of collectively addressing the major challenges of ecological transition, the European Union countries have agreed on a common strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The principles of this strategy are ratified in the European Green Deal, which includes action plans for more sustainable food systems, circular economy, enhanced biodiversity protection, and decarbonization of the energy sector.
What are the objectives of the European Green Deal?
The European Green Deal was first presented to the European Commission in December 2019. By signing the deal, the 27 member states committed to a series of proposals to adapt their environmental policies with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The primary challenge of the Green Deal is to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent, with a carbon neutrality target set for 2050 and an intermediate goal for 2030. The Green Deal sets out the overarching principles that all future legislation must adhere to and also leads to the revision of existing legislation on energy efficiency and environmental protection in line with these common principles and objectives. As a result, the Green Deal establishes the foundation for a series of new environmental regulations and fosters the integration of sustainability across all EU policies, including education, research, and investments.
Key milestones of the European Green Deal
The European climate law
Following the presentation of the European Green Deal by the European Commission under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, a proposal was made in March 2020 to incorporate the objective of climate neutrality by 2050 into European climate law. The intermediate target of 55% reduction in net emissions by 2030 was also proposed by the Commission and approved by the leaders in December 2020. A political agreement was reached in April 2021 for the climate law, which came into effect in June 2021.
Fit for 55: Legislative package on climate
On July 14, 2021, the Commission presented a package of proposals to achieve the 2030 targets, known as "Fit for 55." This climate package includes 12 legislative proposals affecting all economic sectors to achieve the 55% GHG emission reduction target by 2030. Fit for 55 encompasses various measures, including but not limited to:
Strengthening the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) by limiting greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive industrial sectors.
Introducing a carbon border tax for the most polluting imported products.
Increasing carbon sinks through the planting of 3 billion trees.
Accelerating decarbonization efforts in the construction and automotive industries.
The New European Bauhaus
In September 2021, the Commission introduced the concept of the New European Bauhaus, aimed at accelerating the transformation of various sectors to promote reduced carbon footprint and more sustainable waste management. Based on the principles of the original Bauhaus cultural movement initiated by architect Walter Gropius between the two World Wars, the New European Bauhaus adds a cultural and creative dimension to the European Green Deal, aspiring to define a new way of living. The New European Bauhaus revolves around three pillars: sustainability, inclusion, and aesthetics.
Key components of the European Green Deal
The European Green Deal is built around a sustainability dynamic. It aims to reduce GHG emissions, combat energy poverty, decrease external energy dependencies, improve citizens' health and well-being, and stimulate growth. It encompasses several key components with objectives concerning transportation, energy management, construction methods, and biodiversity.
Transitioning to sustainable transportation
The shift towards sustainable mobility is a critical environmental concern. The Green Deal sets targets for reducing emissions from new cars, including a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars and a 50% reduction from new light commercial vehicles by 2030, with the ultimate goal of zero-emission new vehicles by 2050. One of the flagship measures is the discontinuation of the sale of new thermal engine vehicles from 2035 onwards. T
The use of sustainable and cleaner fuels for the maritime and aviation sectors is also expected to increase.
Making European industry a champion of carbon neutrality
By increasing the use of renewable energies and electrifying the economy, Europe aims to foster new technologies and create new markets. The Green Deal Industrial Plan comprises four parts: establishing a regulatory framework to facilitate the rapid deployment of green sectors, providing faster access to financing, developing the necessary skills, and promoting open and fair trade.
Implementing energy transition
Achieving GHG reduction targets necessitates both increased energy efficiency and a higher share of renewable energies. The Green Deal aims for 42.5% of renewable energy in Europe's energy mix by 2030 (compared to around 22% today) and a 36% to 39% reduction in energy consumption.
The renovation of public buildings and housing, supported by the Social Climate Fund, has a triple objective: energy savings, combating energy poverty, and job creation. By 2030, the Green Deal foresees the creation of over 160,000 green jobs in the construction sector and the renovation of 35 million buildings.
Resource management and biodiversity protection
The European Green Deal sets new targets for natural carbon sequestration by proposing a 15% increase in carbon sinks. New criteria are also being established to promote more sustainable management of natural resources, including forestry operations. The European Parliament recently adopted the "Nature Restoration Law" in its first reading, aiming to restore at least 30% of damaged terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030 and 90% by 2050.
Driving global ecological transition
The fight against climate change must be global in scale. Europe aims to be a pioneer and a driving force in this effort. At the global level, the EU and its member states contribute one-third of public funding for climate change mitigation.
The European Green Deal sets a framework and objectives for a common policy on sustainable development in Europe. In 2023, several major texts of the Green Deal were voted on by the European Parliament, including those related to the reform of the carbon market, the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (carbon fairness measure), and the climate social fund. The Commission has also put forward new proposals, such as measures to decarbonize the freight transport sector.
Alongside the measures concerning the circular economy, issues related to reducing packaging waste have also been addressed. All proposals presented by the European Commission must be examined by both the Parliament and the Council before reaching a possible consensus. This legislative process can be particularly lengthy due to the diverse energy policies and economic interests of the 27 member states.
The European Green Deal is an ambitious plan aimed at making Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.