‘Europe’s man on the moon moment’: Von der Leyen unveils EU Green Deal

“Now it’s time to act”, announced European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as she laid out the executive’s plans for tackling climate change.

Ursula von der Leyen | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Lorna Hutchinson

11 Dec 2019


The details of the Commission’s European Green Deal were revealed amid great fanfare on Wednesday, receiving widespread approval from MEPs.

Speaking ahead of her European Parliament debate with MEPs, Ursula von der Leyen said, “This is a very special day. This morning the College of Commissioners agreed on the European Green Deal. The European Green Deal is, on the one hand, our vision for a climate-neutral continent in 2050, and on the other hand a very dedicated roadmap whose goal is 50 actions for 2050.”

“Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce, the way we consume, with our planet and to make it work for our people. The European Green Deal is on the one hand about cutting emissions, but on the other hand about creating jobs and boosting innovation.”


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Von der Leyen said she was convinced that the old growth model based on fossil fuels and pollution is “out of date and out of touch with our planet,” adding “the European Green Deal is our new growth strategy that gives more back than it takes away.”

“This is Europe’s man on the moon moment. The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will be very careful in assessing the impact of every single step we’re taking,” von der Leyen added.

The deal, which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, is a roadmap for making the EU's economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition “just and inclusive for all.”

It covers all sectors of the economy, most notably transport, energy, agriculture, buildings, and industries such as steel, cement, ICT, textiles and chemicals.

“Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce, the way we consume, with our planet and to make it work for our people” Ursula von der Leyen

The Commission said that meeting the objectives of the European Green Deal will require “significant investment” and that achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets will require an estimated €260bn of additional annual investment, representing about 1.5 percent of 2018 GDP.

It added that at least 25 percent of the EU's long-term budget should be dedicated to climate action, and that the European Investment Bank, Europe's “climate bank”, will provide further support.

Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for the European Green Deal, said, ‘We are in a climate and environmental emergency. The European Green Deal is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model.”

He added, “Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens. We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation.”

After a two-hour plenary debate on the European Green Deal, in which both von der Leyen and Timmermans laid out the finer points of the plans and listened to MEP interventions, deputies appeared on the whole to be impressed with the executive’s drive to tackle climate change.

The S&D Group said afterwards: “Eleven days into the new EU Commission, thanks to Frans Timmermans, we have a model to transform the EU into a more just and prosperous society to take on the challenge of climate change.”

Renew Europe said it was “fully on board to make the EU Green Deal a success,” adding, “a binding commitment to net-zero emissions at the latest by 2050 will be a powerful tool to mobilise the necessary political, economic and technological forces for this all-round transition.”

“This is Europe’s man on the moon moment. The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will be very careful in assessing the impact of every single step we’re taking” Ursula von der Leyen

EPP Chairman Manfred Weber said that with the European Green Deal Europe is “showing that we Europeans are taking the fight against climate change seriously.”

“We don't want fossil-free shock therapy of stop signs and taxes, we want to fight climate change through innovation and modern technology. If we want to deliver on our ambition, we need to make sure that climate policy is one that leaves no-one behind,” he added.

The Greens said “the Commission’s EU Green Deal is a necessary step, but now we need to see real climate action. We hope this deal works to: help limit global warming to 1.5C, reduce social inequalities, replace a neo-liberal model with a sustainable model and put finance at service of people.”

GUE/NGL co-President Manon Aubry was even less impressed with the Commission’s plans, saying, “The objectives of the EU Green Deal are not serious. The Green New Deal must enshrine in law a binding priority objective: a 70 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.”

“Any climate initiative will be in vain if it does not tackle the cause of the problem: an economic system that drives both the destruction of our ecosystem and the explosion of inequalities.”

She added, “This plan ignores the human & social dimension of the ecological transition even though precarious workers are the first victims of this crisis. The ridiculously small transition fund won’t be a game changer.”

The thorny issue of Brexit also reared its head in the reactions to the European Green Deal, with some UK MEPs lamenting the fact that the UK will soon no longer be able to take part in this European plan to tackle climate change.

“Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens” Frans Timmermans

S&D deputy John Howarth said, “Next year an extra €500 million of EU cash will go to tackle climate change and much more over a further 7 years. This is the future. The UK should be part of it - not shouting from the sidelines.”

UK Liberal Democrats MEP Jane Brophy echoed Howarth’s sentiments, saying, “The new European Green Deal has 50 actions for 2050 to restore the health of our natural environment and improve the quality of life of our citizens.”

“Europe will be mobilised in one great effort to save our planet, something I am proud to be a part of. We must stick together: the UK cannot make an impact without working with our neighbours #stopbrexit.”

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