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.
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, a €750 billion recovery plan. The plan, along with the next EU long-term budget which still needs to be approved by member states and Parliament, aims to create a greener, more inclusive, digital and sustainable Europe and increase resilience to future crises such as the climate crisis.
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 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. It still has to be approved by the Parliament.
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 on 18 June. In November, 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.
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 adopted its negotiating mandate on the EU climate Law, in October 2020, endorsing the 2050 climate neutrality goal and a 60% emission reduction target by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, which is more ambitious than the Commission’s initial proposal of 55% and more than the current interim target of 40%.
Once member states in the Council establish their position on the climate law, Parliament and Council will start negotiations on the final text, which must receive approval from both institutions.
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.
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 are expected to vote 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:
- electronics and ICT
- batteries and vehicles
- packaging and plastics
- construction and buildings
- the food chain
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.
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, aims to protect nature, reverse the degradation of ecosystems and halt biodiversity loss. Among its main objectives are:
- increasing protected areas
- halting and reversing the decline of pollinators
- planting three billion trees by 2030
- unlocking €20 billion per year for biodiversity
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. The Commission is expected to come up with an EU forest strategy in the first quarter of 2021.