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EU lauds Green Deal as 'man on moon moment'

December 11, 2019

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has praised a plan to make Europe the world's first climate neutral continent. The "European Green Deal" envisages net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Ursula von der Leyen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/F. Seco

Ursula von der Leyen praises climate plan

The European Commission signed off on President Ursula von der Leyen's "European Green Deal" on Wednesday in Brussels, with a promise of money for EU nations that are lagging behind.

The European Green Deal will still need to be approved — by the leaders of the EU's member states and the European Parliament — for the climate policies to be implemented into law.

Read more: Opinion: EU Green Deal can spark a decarbonization revolution

The climate change resolutions will be considered by the leaders of EU countries at their meeting in Brussels on Thursday. 

The EU's big moment 

Von der Leyen, who has put climate issues at the center of her presidency, described the plan as Europe's "new growth strategy."

"We do not have all the answers yet, today is the start of a journey, but this is Europe's man on the moon moment. The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will also be very careful in assessing the impact and every single step we're taking."

Von der Leyen said an economic growth plan based on fossil fuels and pollution was "out of date and out of touch."

"The European Green deal is on one hand about cutting emissions, but on the other hand, about creating jobs and boosting innovation."

Read moreOpinion: In times of climate change, panic rules

What is in the deal?

  • At least 50% reduction in EU carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2030
  • EU climate neutrality by 2050 
  • A "carbon border tax" on polluting foreign firms in selected industries in 2021
  •  €100 billion earmarked to help countries transition from fossil fuels

Opposition from eastern states

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — which are reliant on coal-fired power plants — have yet to commit to the EU's goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. 

Read more: Greta Thunberg named Time Person of the Year

A "Just Transition Fund" is envisaged to help those countries with the switch away from fossil fuels, although the amount will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the EU's long-term budget for 2021-2027.

"We want to be the front runners in climate friendly industries, in clean technologies, in green financing," von der Leyen said. "But we also have to be sure that no one is left behind. In other words, this transition will either be working for all, and be just, or it will not work at all."

Room for improvement

Between 1990 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU have decreased by 23%, according to the bloc's own figures, while the economy grew by 61%. However, the UN has warned of a collective failure to act.

Four years ago in Paris, world leaders agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 C (2.7 F) by the end of the century. It's predicted that countries will miss the target by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken rapidly.

wmr,rc/msh (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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