24th Jan 2020

EU's new Green Deal slammed as 'half-baked' before launch

  • The incoming commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, will unveil the draft new environmental EU law to the MEPs on 11 December. There is no mention of a possible tax on aviation fuel or carbon border tax (Photo: European Parliament)

The "set of deeply transformative policies" that appear in a draft document of the new climate EU law - seen by EUobserver - have not convinced environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace, which believes that the new European Commission's proposals are "too weak, half-baked or missing altogether".

The incoming commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, is expected to present the draft of this new environmental EU law to the MEPs in an extraordinary plenary session that will take place in Brussels on 11 December.

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  • The new commission also promises to eliminate 'incoherent legislation that reduces the effectiveness in delivering the Green Deal' (Photo: European Commission)

However, according to Franziska Achterberg of Greenpeace, "responding to the climate and ecological crises require a fundamental rethink of the economic system that for decades has rewarded pollution, environmental destruction and human exploitation".

"This plan barely scratches the surface," she said.

According to the leaked document, the commission "will present a comprehensive plan on how to increase the EU's greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030 to at least 50 percent and towards 55 percent" by October 2020.

This follows the declaration of a global "climate emergency" by MEPs on Thursday and their agreement to cut 55 percent of emissions by 2030 to ensure climate neutrality by 2050.

"I will be vigilant to ensure that the political proposals made in the coming weeks are in line with the urgency to find common solutions to the unfolding climate and environmental crisis, particularly in the context of the European commission's communication on the Green Deal early December," liberal MEP Pascal Canfin said on Thursday. He chairs the parliament's committee on environment, public health and food safety (ENVI).

Given that scientists estimate that the world is currently heading for a 3.2 degrees temperature rise, global greenhouse-gas emissions need to fall at least by 7.6 percent each year between 2020 and 2030 to keep global temperatures as close as possible to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels - the main goal of the 2016 UN Paris Agreement.

Thus, the EU's proposal to increase the targets to 50 percent or 55 percent, compared to 1990, would not be in line with the Paris Agreement objectives.

'Incoherent legislation'

This has triggered some MEPs and environmental groups to demand more ambitious targets from the Green Deal and the future first legally-binding climate law in Europe.

The Greens are calling for a target of at least 65 percent, while the leftist group GUE/NGL believes that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, emissions should be reduced by 70 percent in 10 years.

Greenpeace and other environmental organisations agree with an at least 65 percent emission cut by 2030.

The new commission promises to eliminate "incoherent legislation that reduces the effectiveness in delivering the Green Deal".

This will include an "action plan on green financing" - which is scheduled to be submitted in June 2020.

Among the financial measures, the commission wants to push negotiations for a high climate and environmental ambition within the next multi-annual financial framework (MFF) - which is likely to keep funding fossil fuel projects - to support the European Investment Bank's transformation to become Europe's 'Climate Bank', or to revise the Energy Taxation Directive.

However, there is no mention of a possible tax on aviation fuel (kerosene tax), which the incoming commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, recently backed.

The next commissioner for transport, Adina Vălean, suggested earlier this month during her hearing that such a taxation "will be a burden on the mobility of people".

There is also no mention of the announced carbon border tax on imports - which would protect EU companies forced to comply with tough greenhouse gas rules.


The new legislation also promises a shift towards "smart and safe zero-emission mobility," supporting the shift from road and aviation to rail and deploying alternative infrastructure and fuels.

Likewise, the commission will adopt "a comprehensive strategy for sustainable and smart mobility by 2020" addressing all sources of emissions from the transport sector, proposing to incorporate the maritime sector in the EU emission trading scheme, but also "assess the possibility of including road transport emissions".

Additionally, von der Leyen's team will try to ensure high environmental and climate ambition in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), since the CAP is seen as one of the most important mechanisms to both support and green environmental and climate action in the agricultural sector - one of the world's most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

"The climate does not negotiate and the longer we wait to make the necessary changes in our economy, the more difficult and expensive it will be. Declaring an emergency is just not good enough," said Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang.

MEPs declare 'climate emergency' in Europe

The European Parliament approved declaring a "climate emergency", ahead of next week's UN climate conference in Madrid - and three weeks after Donald Trump confirmed the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

EU centre-right pledges 'moderate' climate solution

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) pledge at its Zagreb congress to deliver a middle-ground compromise between "utopian environmental policies" and climate-change denial.

COP25 talks open in Madrid, with focus on carbon market

About 200 heads of government and state and more than 25,000 delegates from all over the world, will gather at the UN climate conference (COP25) on Monday to negotiate on a carbon market system and establish a common time frame.

Von der Leyen warns on EU budget cuts

The new EU Commission president will tell EU leaders next week that they need to put money behind their pledges for border protection, defence policy and fighting climate change.

Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

The Green Deal commissioner, Frans Timmermans, said the costs of inaction in climate policy are "tremendously high". However, it is still unclear if member states will unanimously agree on the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality goal at next week's summit.

Europeans ready to 'green' their lifestyles, study finds

Two-thirds of people in Europe, the US and China think their individual behaviour can help tackle climate change - but Europeans and Chinese are more willing to change their living standards to limit global warming than Americans.


Dutch case opens new era for climate-change litigation

Legal action related to climate change is set to grow considerably in the next few years - especially after a largely-overlooked ruling over Christmas by a Dutch court forced the government to reduce its emission by 25 percent by 2020.

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