|January 20, 2020|
EU's $1 trillion plan to make whole continent carbon neutral
|The EU has released new details about how it plans to use more than $1 trillion to take the economic bloc to carbon neutral by 2050. The announcement Tuesday expanded on how the EU will finance its enormous European Green Deal package, first revealed in December, intended to help member states transition to a green economy.|
If successful, the plan could make Europe the world's first carbon-neutral continent.
The Sustainable Europe Investment Plan will draw from the EU budget and a range of public and private investors to make available €1 trillion ($1.11 trillion) to finance green initiatives---from improving the energy efficiency of homes, to renewable energy generation, to the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.
A key component of the plan, the Just Transition Mechanism, is intended to ensure that regions likely to be impacted more heavily by the changes will receive additional support. This was devised to win the backing of member states such as Poland, which has thus far been skeptical of the Green Deal owing to the country's reliance on coal---the fuel that remains the biggest offender in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
Announcing the plan, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: "Our vision to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. The transformation ahead of us is unprecedented. And it will only work if it is just---and if it works for all. We will support our people and our regions that need to make bigger efforts in this transformation, to make sure that we leave no one behind."
As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission will propose a Europe-wide 'Climate Law' in March, making it a legal requirement for member states to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In the U.K., which is eyeing an exit from the EU, reactions to the announcement have been mixed. A spokesperson for the U.K. government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy told Forbes.com: "Ahead of COP26, we welcome the EU's Green Deal and them bringing forward proposals to drive action on climate change across the economy, including legislating to eliminate its contribution to climate change by 2050." COP26 refers to the UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow in November.
But in his response to the announcement, Seb Dance, a British Member of the European Parliament who helped author the European Parliament's Sustainable Development Goals, told Forbes.com: "As a British MEP, this is a bittersweet moment for me. I'm exceptionally proud of the part I have played in moving the EU towards this point, but equally disappointed that the U.K. won't be around to continue to shape the Union's green agenda. The decisions that the U.K. will need to make are as onerous as those in the EU, but Brexit will make the process so much harder for Britain."
"Alignment on environmental and climate policies looks set to be a big issue going forwards for the future relationship," Dance went on. "The British Government must keep pace, or risk losing access to their biggest market. There is no future in a race to the bottom."
For their part, environmental campaigners gave a conditional welcome to the EU's plans, though Friends of the Earth said provisions laid out in the European Green Deal did not go far enough. Director of Friends of the Earth Europe, Jagoda Munic, said: "This is vital support the European Commission is giving today to help communities and workers to adapt to the changes brought by the shift to sustainable fossil-free societies.
"But the EU must go far further and faster---increase tenfold the support for communities and workers to transition, only direct the funds to countries doing their fair share of climate action, and fully exclude all fossil fuels from the entire EU budget and private financing being mobilised."
In a press statement, Greenpeace EU welcomed the announcement that, as well as fossil fuels, nuclear power will be excluded from the Just Transition Mechanism---but added that coal-dependent nations such as Poland and the Czech Republic would have to "prove they are serious about tackling the climate emergency."
Greenpeace EU climate and energy adviser Sebastian Mang said: "If this funding is really meant to promote a green transition, it must only be available to governments that are committed to that transition and have a clear plan to ditch coal."