The International Energy Agency (IEA), just recently announced that there is still hope for a global pathway of climate action to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and keep warming under the 1.5°C of global temperature rise. This pathway is narrow – the proposed roadmap for the global energy sector will require commitments and action that is more ambitious than anything governments have promised to date. But this news comes at a time when governments around the world are at a turning point. From the new climate ambitions of the US administration, to the major win of the youth activists’ climate lawsuit in Germany, and the calls to build back better from the pandemic, it’s clear that the organizing of the climate movement over the past years is working. And most importantly, we still have a chance to reach net-zero and limit the worst effects of climate change – if we act now.
The European Union – long a leader in the global climate fight – is similarly at a turning point. At the end of 2019, the new EU Commission proposed a landmark new growth strategy for the EU – a strategy that was announced with the aim of comprehensively tackling the climate emergency, transforming the EU into a sustainable and fair economy, and putting us on track to reach climate neutrality by 2050. The European Green Deal was a turning point for European climate policy and our global climate leadership. But since then, we have faced a disappointing reality – compromise after compromise is putting the Green Deal, and with it our climate commitments, at risk.
What’s putting the Green Deal at risk?
Over the last year, the Commission has put forward proposals for several key pieces of the Green Deal legislation. Particularly crucial among them was the European Climate Law and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Climate Law was meant to be the flagship policy of the EU Green Deal, not just putting the 2050 climate neutrality goal into law, but also setting the crucial milestone of a 2030 emission reduction target. But the climate law’s negotiations, finalized a few weeks ago, resulted in a disappointingly weak compromise — with a 2030 target of only 52.8% absolute emissions reductions instead of the 65% that was called for by the science, activists, and the European Greens. Furthermore, few of the European Parliament’s demands, which were fought for by the Greens/EFA members of the European Parliament, and which included binding targets on member states as well as a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, were incorporated. As a result, the Climate Law is not in line with the EU’s targets under the Paris Agreement and puts at risk the EU’s chance to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
Similarly, the CAP proposal put forward last fall is almost entirely at odds with the aims of the Green Deal. Meant to support EU agriculture, the CAP is one of the EU’s largest budget lines (58 billion euros) and will set the financial and political guidelines for the agricultural sector for the next seven years. Yet the current proposal incentivises monoculture farming and large-scale industrial agriculture at the expense of local farmers and rural communities, as well as the climate and biodiversity. The so-called “eco-schemes” in the CAP make up only 25% of the CAP’s direct payments and without a clear emissions reduction target for agriculture as well as a payment structure that makes increased ambition from member states more difficult, at best these measures are greenwashing. The CAP proposal as it stands will lock us into another decade unsustainable, fossil- and chemicals-intensive agriculture. Yet right now is the time to strengthen our local farmers, incentivise organic and responsible agriculture and make sure our rural communities are resilient – not pump billions into exploitative multinational agriculture.
So what can be done?
The European Union, led by the Commission, the Parliament and especially the European Council, still have a chance to fix this. They can still reform the CAP to make sure EU funds go towards supporting sustainable practices, small scale farmers, and build local resilience and biodiversity. This means aligning the CAP with the Green Deal and Biodiversity strategies, including designating at minimum 30% of the budget for strong and effective eco-schemes, as well as targets for restoring the biodiversity of at least 10% of agricultural land. In the upcoming debate on the EUs regulation on sustainable finance (the EU Taxonomy), they still have a chance to make sure we only invest in climate-friendly projects. We must finally phase out subsidies for fossil fuels – especially for new natural gas, which even the IEA finds cannot be relied on as a “transition fuel” – and fully phase-out coal by 2030 at the latest, followed by other fossil fuels soon after. We need a tax on kerosene to ensure that airlines and polluters are paying their fair share and instead use those funds to improve our railways. And in the upcoming review of the Fit-for-2030 Package, it is crucial that we see a bold and earnest overhaul of the EU’s climate and energy policy. This would include significantly strengthening the EU emissions trading system, and introducing a phase-out for internal combustion engines by 2030.
We know that the next 5-10 years are among the most crucial for lowering our global emissions to stay within the 1.5°C or even well below 2°C targets. That’s why Greens are demanding that we save the Green Deal. We call on our national and EU institutions to stop kicking the can down the road, face the problem and start implementing solutions: make the EU a climate leader. Make the Green Deal more than just a slogan. Put us on an ambitious, fair and sustainable path toward a better future. But we also call on our fellow activists, civil society and citizens – don’t let up the pressure. There is still hope. Right now, we are at a turning point, and we must show our leaders we want action: in how we act and in how we vote.
Together, let’s #SavetheGreenDeal