It’s official. Ursula von der Leyen has confirmed her intentions to run for a second term as President of the EU Commission. But her agenda is quite different from that of 2019, when she announced Europe’s “man on the moon” moment, the European Green Deal. The President’s narrative has unequivocally shifted from sustainability to competitiveness. Instead of boosting climate and environmentally-friendly businesses, the priority now seems to be making business-friendly policies. Nuances matter. Amidst intense political pressures to backtrack on the green agenda and return to deregulation, this, unfortunately, should be read as more than just a narrative flip-flop. 


Polluters first: Not by chance, von der Leyen has kicked off her round for re-election with a closed-door summit with big polluting businesses’ CEOs in Antwerp, Belgium. The event took place in one of the most polluted regions in the world, in the house of BASF—the largest chemical production site in Belgium and a major contributor to local and global pollution. With the chemical industry profiting the most from von der Leyen’s shelved promises during this EU term, this is a bad omen. Read our press release

Deregulatory push: The EEB has seen the declaration for a “European Industrial Deal” resulting from the Antwerp summit. What is in there? A wish list from big polluters, chemical, nuclear and fossil fuel lobbyists calling for a “new spirit of lawmaking”. In short, fewer protections and more subsidies for costly and unproven technology in the race to the bottom with China and US in the name of competitiveness.  

Competitive sustainability: Having to choose between the economy and the planet is a false dilemma. Europe’s climate and environmental goals are fully complementary with long-term industrial competitiveness. In fact, the European model’s recipe for success lies in its cutting-edge regulation, carbon pricing, R&D… not in the market’s “laissez-faire”. Von der Leyen has much more to win by upholding her own legacy and expanding EU’s social and environmental gains than by following deregulatory recipes imported from the US.  

Hope on the horizon? The scientific evidence is clear. Von der Leyen should rather listen to the many voices of scientists, civil society and beyond saying that we need a continuation of the European Green Deal fit for the realities we are facing. Therefore, we need a new European Pact for the Future. One that builds on the Green Deal and ensures a future where people and nature thrive together.   


The good—air quality: Take a deep breath—unless you live in highly polluted Milan or Madrid—EU lawmakers have agreed a new air quality rules! With the current Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) dating back to 2008, a revision was urgently needed within the current mandate. Poor air quality is still responsible for over 250,000 premature deaths every year. In case you missed it, the EEB’s Daniel Lissoni wrote an in-depth META piece about the importance of updating these rules. 

The bad—water action: In a surprise move that will harm Europeans, farmers and nature, the EU Commission decided to “pause” the initiative for water resilience. Intense floods and droughts are already drowning or parching parts of Europe at an immense cost to communities, our food supply and nature. It makes no sense to scrap this promise now and can only be intended for short-sighted political gain in the run-up to the elections. Read our press release

The ugly—energy taxation: Our energy tax rules are totally out of step with our climate efforts. On average, clean electricity is taxed 10 times more than dirty coal in the EU. The current Energy Taxation Directive, filled with tax exemptions for fossil fuels, poses a serious obstacle to Europe’s decarbonisation efforts. In a last-minute push, the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU is trying to break the blockage among EU states and reach a deal before this term come to an end. 

The ugliest—fiscal rules: After four crucial years of debate, negotiators from both the EU Council and EU Parliament finally reached a last-minute agreement on the EU’s economic governance framework. While reforming the current outdated rules was urgent, the proposed changes prioritise debt reduction over social and environmental needs, potentially hindering a just and green transition during a period of multiple crises. 


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