What’s the deal with the Green Deal?

Nurturing

A CONTINENT’S COMMITMENT  The European Green Deal will unlock at least €1 trillion in sustainable investments over the next ten years.

Nature and rewilding

Pat Fahy

Last December, EU leaders agreed a new and more ambitious net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 55 percent by 2030. This is the latest step in the European Green Deal, agreed the previous year, which will unlock at least €1 trillion in sustainable investments over the next ten years.
The biggest overhaul of policy since the foundation of the modern EU, this plan is a sign that climate change has shifted to the heart of EU policymaking. It’s a hugely positive development for scientists, climate-action lobbyists and campaigners who’ve battled for many years to make global warming a central issue of concern.
Commenting on the European Green Deal, EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said, “[It] is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away … We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.”
Europe wants to become the first continent in the world to go carbon neutral by 2050, but added to environmental concerns, the EU is worried about being left behind in the green technology shift. China has taken control of the solar power industry and is way ahead in electric vehicles. It also may pose a future threat in wind power.
At the same time, whilst the EU wanted the US to return to the Paris Agreement, now that it has returned there’s concern the US can outcompete and outspend the EU.
US President Joe Biden has promised to inject $2 trillion into clean energy during his four-year term, almost twice the size of the EU’s budget for 2020-27. With the addition of Biden’s new climate targets, 66 percent of the global economy is now covered by net zero carbon goals.
How, you may ask, will they get all these countries to stick to these net zero carbon agreements? The answer is self-interest. It’s in their interest to create green jobs. We are in a worldwide race to solve climate change, the burning issue of our time. The citizens of countries that lose out in that race will feel the pinch. Unless we innovate we will be worse off.
Good investments pay for themselves, so the Commission predicts overall impact on GDP will be minimal (0.5 percent of the EU’s GDP) – and that’s not counting the economic costs of climate change, which will be potentially devastating. Sea-level rise alone could cost Europe between €135 billion and €145 billion a year by 2050, rising to €450 to €650 billion by 2080.
The deal is comprehensive, covering everything from the air we breathe to how food is grown, from how we travel to the buildings we inhabit. If it sounds ambitious then that’s because it is. Nothing of this type on this scale has been attempted before.
Will the Green Deal make a difference? All I can say is that it definitely needs to. CO2 lasts 300 to 1,000 years in the atmosphere, which means that every molecule emitted since the industrial revolution began is still warming the planet today.
This is Europe’s chance to prove that sustainable economic growth is possible. A healthy planet keeps its citizens healthy by having a thriving and abundant natural world.

Pat Fahy is Biodiversity Officer with Westport Tidy Towns.