Green Deal: key to a climate-neutral and sustainable EU 


Parliament wants the Green Deal to be at the core of the EU’s Covid-19 recovery package. Find out more about this roadmap for a climate-neutral Europe.

Tackling climate change is one of the EU priorities  

During the coronavirus pandemic economic activity slowed, causing a reduction in carbon emissions but leaving the EU facing recession. In a resolution adopted on 15 May 2020, Parliament called for an ambitious recovery plan with the Green Deal at its core.  

In response, the European Commission came up with Next Generation EU, the EU’s plan for the economic recovery, which  along with the EU’s budget for 2021-2027, aims to create a greener, more inclusive, digital and sustainable Europe and increase resilience to future crises such as the climate crisis. The main instrument under the plan, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, was approved by the Parliament in February 2021.

In November 2019, the Parliament declared a climate emergency asking the Commission to adapt all its proposals in line with a 1.5 °C target for limiting global warming and ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

In response, the Commission unveiled the European Green Deal, a roadmap for Europe becoming a climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Find out about the EU's progress towards its climate goals

The first steps under the Green Deal

Financing the green transition

In January 2020, the Commission presented the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, the strategy to finance the Green Deal by attracting at least €1 trillion worth of public and private investment over the next decade.

As part of the investment plan, the Just Transition Mechanism should help alleviate the socio-economic impact of the transition on workers and communities most affected by the shift. In May 2020, the Commission proposed a public sector loan facility to support green investments in regions dependent on fossil fuels, which was approved by the Parliament in June 2021.

Parliament and Council agreed on the introduction of new sources of revenue to fund the budget and the recovery plan. These would include proceeds from the Emissions Trading System and a carbon border adjustment mechanism that would impose a levy on imports of certain goods.

To encourage investment in environmentally sustainable activities and prevent companies falsely claiming their products are environmentally friendly - practice known as green-washing -Parliament adopted new legislation on sustainable investments in June 2020. In November 2020, MEPs also asked for a shift from an unsustainable to a sustainable economic system, as crucial to develop the long-term strategic autonomy of the EU and to increase the EU’s resilience.

Discover how the Just Transition Fund will help EU regions make the transition to a greener economy 

Enshrining climate neutrality in law

In March 2020, the Commission proposed the European Climate Law, a legal framework to achieve the 2050 climate neutrality goal. In January, Parliament had called for more ambitious emission reduction targets than those initially proposed by the Commission.

Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement to increase the EU’s 2030 emissions reductions target from 40% to at least 55%. Parliament adopted the EU Climate Law on 24 June 2021. The 2030 target and 2050 goal of climate neutrality will be legally binding, moving the EU closer to its post-2050 objective of negative emissions and confirming its leadership in the global fight against climate change, ahead of the COP26 in November 2021.

It should allow the targets to be more easily applied to legislation and should create benefits such as cleaner air, water and soil; reduced energy bill; renovated homes; better public transport and more charging stations for e-cars; less waste; healthier food and better health for current and future generations.

Business will also benefit as opportunities are created in areas where Europe aims to set global standards. It is also expected to generate jobs, for example in renewable energy, energy efficient buildings and processes.

Find out about the EU's contributions to global climate measures in our timeline

Empowering European industry and SMEs

In March 2020, the Commission presented a new industrial strategy for Europe, to ensure that European businesses can transition towards climate neutrality and a digital future. In November 2020, Parliament asked for a revision of the proposal to reflect the impact of the pandemic in the industrial sector. MEPs want the EU to support the industry during an initial recovery phase and then focus on transformation and improving autonomy in a second phase. In May 2021, the Commission proposed the updated industrial strategy.

As 99% of European firms are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), accounting for 50% of the EU gross domestic product and responsible for two out of three jobs, the Commission also proposed a new SME strategy, encouraging innovation; cutting red tape and allowing better access to finance. In December MEPs voted on their position concerning the initial SME strategy, asking the Commission to update it in light of the coronavirus crisis, emphasising liquidity problems and digital aspects as well as expressing support for the move towards a greener economy.

Read more about the challenges to be tackled by the new industrial strategy

Boosting the circular economy

In addition the Commission presented the EU Circular Economy Action Plan in March, which includes measures along the entire life cycle of products promoting circular economy processes, fostering sustainable consumption and guaranteeing less waste. It will focus on:

Find out more about the benefits of the circular economy and how the Parliament fights plastic pollution.

Creating a sustainable food system

The food sector is one the main drivers of climate change. Even though EU agriculture is the only major farm sector worldwide to have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions (by 20% since 1990), it still accounts for about 10% of emissions (of which 70% are due to animals).

The  Farm to Fork strategy, presented by the Commission in May 2020, should guarantee a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system, whilst ensuring farmers’ livelihoods. It covers the entire food supply chain, from cutting the use of pesticides and sales of antimicrobials by half and reducing the use of fertilisers to increasing the use of organic farming.

Find out how the Parliament is combatting pesticides in food.

Preserving biodiversity

At the same time the EU aims to tackle the loss in biodiversity, including the potential extinction of one million species. The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, unveiled in May by the Commission, aims to protect nature, reverse the degradation of ecosystems and halt biodiversity loss.

Parliament adopted its position on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: bringing nature back into our lives on 8 June, insisting that its implementation is consistent with other European Green Deal strategies.

Learn more about the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030

Parliament has been advocating sustainable forestry as forests play an essential role in absorbing and offsetting carbon emissions. MEPs also recognise forestry's contribution to creating jobs in rural communities and the role the EU could play in protecting and restoring the world’s forests.