Thursday

16th Sep 2021

Opinion

It doesn't have to be coronavirus 'or' Green Deal

  • The EU should not delay nor backtrack on any of its green ambitions - we are well beyond the point of no return so any compromise would lead us to a halfway house, which is a lose-lose (Photo: NN - norden.org)

There have been reports of EU countries – 12 so far, including Germany and France – calling for a 'Green Recovery' after the Covid-19 crisis.

But what does this really mean and how should it look in reality?

Read and decide

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The following three points will set Europe up for a sustainable recovery by providing opportunities to companies that have been going above and beyond for the environment.

One, regulatory stability.

Europe has chosen to take a global leadership role on sustainability and crafted a whole legislative framework to support that. EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen calls it "our generations' defining task."

Business has counted on this direction of travel, with many basing their investment decisions on it.

So, if we ever want to capitalise on these "investments", the EU should not delay nor backtrack on any of its green ambitions.

We are well beyond the point of no return so any compromise would lead us to a halfway house, which is a lose-lose.

That would seriously impact the credibility of the EU as a market-maker. It would also affect Europe's sustainability frontrunners if policy-makers no longer support access to market for their sustainable products and services.

For society as a whole, it would be even worse. It would mean a definite goodbye to achieving the Paris climate targets in a market-led, relatively non-disruptive way.

An average global temperature rise above 1.5 or 2°C creates risks society cannot handle. This dwarfs the fall-out of Covid-19.

EU support

Many need support in the current situation – and this certainly applies to sustainable frontrunners.

So far, Europe has stepped up to the plate.

Thanks to all those dedicated, hard-working-from-home EU officials, MEPs, and so on, the EU has done what it can to soften up state-aid requirements, issue unprecedented defence mechanisms against foreign takeovers, devise ambitious recovery plans and alliances – and this is all next to the work they normally do.

However, the EU must ensure taxpayers' money is used in a sustainable, future-proof way.

Barring bailed-out companies from paying dividends and bonuses is a good start, now it should also stick to its own principles of the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy.

That would really help the EU (and its front-runner companies) leapfrog ahead in its ambition of becoming the global leader for the primary issue of the future: Sustainability.

Covid-19 gives us a foretaste of what a climate emergency could look like, as did the Australian bushfires. Remember those?

They make one thing clear: the environment, our common home, needs fixing and we cannot do that without the audacious women and men who will bring the sustainable innovations needed to meet the Paris targets.

Yes, we will need sustainable frontrunners, pioneers, challengers of the status quo and we should stop seeing them as a threat, but rather, start appreciating them, rewarding them, and giving them standing in regulatory processes. Letting them set the norms and standards.

The 'Top-Runner' programme in Japan proves how this can lift up entire industries.

The technology race is still open, and this is the EU's best chance to catch the latest mega trends and lead on it globally. Now, more than ever, we need sustainable innovation: 'Made in the EU'.

So, let the Circular Economy Action Plan be our leitmotiv when it says that "the performance of front-runners in sustainability should progressively become the norm".

Author bio

Willem Vriesendorp is the founder of #SustainablePublicAffairs.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

ExxonMobil lobbyists pushed for weaker EU Green Deal

ExxonMobil lobbyists pushed the EU commission to weaken climate regulation for the transport sector with a two-pronged strategy: supporting the Paris Agreement, while dwelling on long-term technical solutions and promoting oil and gas usage in the green transition.

Infographic

Why coronavirus numbers tell complex stories

Numbers appear precise, but can also be unintentionally misleading when it comes to the pandemic, as experts warned that worldwide data is difficult to compare.

EU wants to halve use of pesticides by 2030

The European Commission wants to cut chemical pesticides by 50 percent in the next decade - but the definitive target will be subject to the results of a risk assessment. Green NGOs have urged their full phase-out by 2035.

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