Green Deal: key to a climate-neutral and sustainable EU
The Green Deal is the EU’s answer to the ongoing climate crisis. Find out more about this roadmap for a climate-neutral Europe.
In November 2019, the Parliament declared a climate emergency asking the European 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.
The European Green Deal goals and benefits
Parliament adopted the EU Climate Law on 24 June 2021, which makes legally binding a target of reducing emissions 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. This moves the EU closer to its post-2050 objective of negative emissions and confirms its leadership in the global fight against climate change.
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
The Fit for 55 package to achieve the Green deal objectives
For the EU to reach the 2030 target, the Commission proposed a package of new and revised legislation known as Fit for 55 in 2021, comprising 13 interlinked revised laws and six proposed laws on climate and energy.
Reducing emissions from industry, transport and other sectors
In 2023, MEPs have approved the following files:
- The revision of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme to include polluting sectors, such as buildings and road transport as of 2027, and maritime transport. The reforms will phase out free allowances for aviation by 2026 and promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels
- Review of the Market Stability Reserve to address the structural imbalance between the supply of and demand for allowances in the Emissions Trading System
- The implementation of the carbon leakage instrument that will put a carbon price on imported goods from carbon-intensive industries outside the EU to counter relocation to countries with less ambitious climate targets
- Effort-sharing between EU countries to increase national targets for emissions reductions - in sectors not covered by the Emissions Trading System, notably construction, agriculture and waste management - from 29% to 40% by 2030
- The reinforcement of rules to increase carbon removal in the land use, land-use change and forestry sector
- A proposal to guarantee that new cars and vans in the EU produce zero CO2 emissions in 2035
- A revision of emissions allowances for aviation to include all flights departing from the European Economic Area in the scheme and a potential solution for flights outside the EU
- An increase of the number of charging and refuelling stations for cars and trucks that use alternative fuels
- A requirement for a gradual shift to sustainable aviation fuels
- New targets to reduce energy consumption on the EU level by 2030
- A new increased target of 42.5% for the share of renewable energy in EU’s energy consumption by 2030
- A gradual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by ships and a move to cleaner maritime fuels
Creating EU funds to support households in the green transition
Parliament approved the implementation of a Social Climate Fund to helping vulnerable households, small businesses and transport users with the increased cost of energy. It is funded by the auctioning of Emissions Trading System allowances to ensure a fair energy transition.
Boosting the circular economy
The Commission presented the EU Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020, which includes measures along the entire life cycle of products promoting circular economy processes, fostering sustainable consumption and guaranteeing less waste. It focuses on:
- Electronics and ICT
- Batteries and vehicles
- Packaging and plastics
- Construction and buildings
- The food chain
In November 2022, the Commission proposed new EU-wide rules on packaging.
As part of the rules to promote reusability, notably the right to repair, the EU agreed on a common charger. The USB Type-C will become the common charger for most electronic devices in the EU by the end of 2024. Laptops will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port by 28 April 2026.
In March 2023, the Commission presented a new proposal to promote repairing and reusing goods. Within the legal guarantee, It would require sellers to repair products unless it is cheaper to replace them. Beyond the guarantee, it would provide rights to make repairs easier and cheaper.
In September 2022, Parliament approved its position on the implementation of the EU's new industrial strategy to help businesses overcome the Covid-related crisis, align spending to policy and make the transition to a greener, circular economy.
In November 2021, MEPs called for a more comprehensive EU strategy for critical raw materials to make Europe less dependent on the imports of critical raw materials that are crucial for its strategic industries. In March 2023, the Commission proposed an EU act for critical raw materials to ensure an adequate and diversified supply for Europe’s digital economy as well as for the green transition, prioritising re-use and recycling.
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.
Parliament welcomed the EU's farm to fork strategy in a resolution adopted in October 2021, but added recommendations to make it even more sustainable. Parliament specified that the Fit for 55 package should include ambitious targets for emissions from agriculture and related land use.
The EU also aims to tackle the loss in biodiversity, including the potential extinction of one million species. The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, unveiled in May 2020 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 in June 2021, insisting that its implementation is consistent with other European Green Deal strategies.
As forests play an essential role in absorbing and offsetting carbon emissions, Parliament has adopted new rules to ensure goods sold on the European market have not contributed to deforestation or forest degradation anywhere in the world. The regulation also ensures these products comply with human rights standards and ensure indigenous people’s rights are respected.
Find out climate change facts and figures
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 EU budget and the Covid-19 economic 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.