Von der Leyen bets future on Green Deal

The European Commission has released its plan for a Green Deal just 10 days after taking office, describing it as “Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment”.

Yesterday’s announcement was the first major policy communication from the new Commission, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, which took office on 1 December.

The Green Deal now looks set to become the defining policy of the EU in the coming years, with campaigners hoping it can help deliver a better future for people and nature.

The EEB live tweeted reaction to the deal

Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the EEB, welcomed the promise of “deeply transformative policies” in what he called a “significant moment both for the environment and the EU”.

Wates said: “Today’s Green Deal is far from a perfect document but for the most part provides a good starting point for further work. As regards its ultimate success, much will depend on the content of the more specific strategies that are foreseen to come out in the coming months.”

The Green Deal proposal follows an European Parliament election in May, where climate and the environment were key issues. Young people have led demands for governments to respond to scientific warnings about climate breakdown and biodiversity loss with serious action to cut emissions and reduce inequality.  

Last week, the European Environment Agency’s State of the European Environment report highlighted the environmental challenges of unprecedented scale and urgency which the the EU faces.

Patrick ten Brink, the EEB’s EU Policy Director, said: 

“The European Green Deal includes important commitments to a toxic-free environment, to end harmful subsidies and loopholes, and to design the genuinely transformative policies we will need to deliver for future generations.”

While the initiative was generally welcomed by climate and environmental groups, some stressed the document’s shortcomings and problematic approach to economic growth.

Patrizia Heidegger, the EEB’s Global Policy Director pointed to the EEA’s report that stated that the EU will fail to tackle the environmental problems it faces if it continues to promote economic growth while trying to ‘manage’ the environmental and social impacts:

“What we need is a strategy to break free from ever-increasing consumption and economic expansion and to establish a society in which we live well within the planet’s limits, so it’s disappointing to see the Green Deal referred to as a ‘growth strategy’ on its opening page,” she stressed. “There is no empirical evidence to support the idea that decoupling economic growth from environmental pressures is possible on anywhere near the scale needed to deal with environmental breakdown.” 

Prior to yesterday’s announcement, the EEB published a reports detailing priorities and opportunities for the European Green Deal and about how the EU budget could be used to address the climate crisis.

The Green Deal document covers a wide range of policy areas, including food and farming, product design and repairability and EU chemical policy.

Ten Brink warned: “The next 12 months will now be crucial as new laws, policies and budgets are developed to deliver the Green Deal.”