Technology & Science

What is the 'European Green Deal'?

The "European Green Deal" aims to make the EU the world's first "climate-neutral" continent by 2050. Here's how.

Here are the key components, from new taxes to green investment

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during an extraordinary session to present a Green Deal plan, at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium December 11, 2019. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Union's executive Commission, laid out the details of her "European Green Deal" on Wednesday, coinciding with a U.N. summit on the climate.

Calling it "Europe's man on the moon moment," von der Leyen presented her plan to make the EU the world's first "climate-neutral" continent by 2050.

Following are the key components of her hallmark plan:

Ambitious 2030 goals

Von der Leyen wants the EU to reduce carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, considerably more than the current goal of 40 per cent. She may raise that aim to 55 per cent.

Green lobbyists are pushing for an even more ambitious target of 60 per cent or 70 per cent cuts by 2030, but some critics say her plans may cripple European industries.

Climate law

There is currently nearly unanimous support among member states for the EU to be climate neutral - not adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere beyond what can be absorbed - by 2050.

Von der Leyen has pledged to present the first "European Climate Law" by March 2020 to enshrine that goal.

New taxes

Her Commission is to start work immediately on a carbon border tax on polluting foreign firms in an effort to shelter EU businesses striving to become environmentally-friendly.

Von der Leyen says the new tax, to be introduced in 2021, will comply with World Trade Organization rules and start on a "number of selected industries."

She will also reform the EU's emissions trading system, which taxes industries, and work to include the maritime, aviation, traffic and construction sectors.

Containers are loaded onto a ship at the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, September 11, 2018. Von der Leyen plans to reform the EU's emissions trading system, which taxes industries, and work to include the maritime, aviation, traffic and construction sectors. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters)

Transition fund

Some of the EU's 28 member, mainly from eastern Europe, want financial aid to transition away from fossil fuels. The incoming Commission's answer is the "Just Transition Fund."

Its size will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the EU's long-term budget for 2021-2027 and the bloc's cohesion funds, but is expected to amount to at least 35 billion euros ($39 billion) plus tens of billions in additional funding from other sources such as the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The fund would allow fossil fuel-dependent regions to finance their transition to clean industries and energy sources and retrain workers for higher-tech sustainable industries.

Green investment

The EIB, the EU's lending arm, decided on Nov. 15 to cease funding fossil fuel projects at the end of 2021 in line with von der Leyen's goals for it to be "Europe's climate bank."

She wants the EIB to dedicate half its financing to climate investment by 2025. She also plans to fund parts of the European Green Deal policies with a "Sustainable Europe Investment Plan," with one trillion euros in investment over the coming decade.

Farming policies, biodiversity strategy

Von der Leyen also promised to refresh farming with policies such as the "Farm to Fork Strategy," designed to help farmers produce food in more sustainable ways.

The Green Deal will also include a biodiversity strategy for the coming 10 years, with the EU aiming for a lead role at the United Nations' biodiversity summit in 2020.

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