Western Europe

Op-Ed: The European Green Deal, by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Brussels, 11/12/2019 - 21:36, UNIQUE ID: 191211_20

"Science tells us that we can still stop this epidemic, but we are running out of time. The new European Commission is wasting no time. Today, less than two weeks into our mandate, we present our roadmap for a European Green Deal. "


Do we, humans, want to continue living well and safely on this planet? Humanity faces an existential threat the whole world is beginning to see. Forests burn from America to Australia. Deserts are advancing across Africa and Asia. Rising sea levels threaten our European cities as well as Pacific islands.


Excessive droughts and changing rainfall patterns is making life very difficult for rural communities that are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, while recent flooding in Eastern and Southern Africa has caused havoc also in urban areas, destroying both lives and infrastructure.

Mankind has seen such phenomena before, but never at this speed.


Science tells us that we can still stop this epidemic, but we are running out of time. The new European Commission is wasting no time. Today, less than two weeks into our mandate, we present our roadmap for a European Green Deal.


The European Union, being one of the most industrialised and developed regions, carries the responsibility of leading in the fight against climate change. Our goal is to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, slowing down global warming and mitigating its effects. This is a task for our generation and the next, but change must begin right now – and we know we can do it.


The European Green Deal that we present today is Europe's new growth strategy. It will cut emissions while also creating jobs and improving our quality of life.


It is the green thread that will run through all our policies – from transport to taxation, from food to farming, from industry to infrastructure. With our Green Deal we want to invest in clean energy and extend emission trading, but we will also boost the circular economy and preserve Europe’s biodiversity.


The European Green Deal is not just a necessity: it will be a driver of new economic opportunities. Many European firms are already going green. They are cutting their carbon footprint and discovering the clean technologies. They understand that there are planetary boundaries: European companies of all sizes understand that everyone has to take care of our common home. They also know that if they discover the sustainable solutions of tomorrow, this will give them first mover advantage.


What businesses and change-makers need from us is easy access to financing. To pull this off, we will deliver a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan.  It will support one trillion euros of investment over the next decade. We will work hand in hand with the European Investment Bank, Europe’s climate bank.

Next March, we will propose the first-ever European Climate Law to chart the way ahead and make it irreversible: investors, innovators and entrepreneurs need clear rules to plan their long-term investments.


While we will promote transformation in how we produce and consume, live and work, we must also protect and accompany those who risk being hit harder by such change. This transition must work for all or it will not work at all. I will propose to set up a Just Transition Fund – and I want it to mobilise, together with the leverage of the European Investment Bank and private money, one hundred billion euros in investment over the next seven years. We will make sure that we help those European regions who will have to take a bigger step, so that we leave no one behind.


But our action is not limited to Europe; the European Commission has proposed that in 2021-2027 25% of the EU budget for external cooperation be devoted to climate related actions.


People young and old are not only asking for climate action, they are already changing their lifestyle. In Tanzania, people from all walks of life have been helping to clean up the beaches; and the recent ban on plastic bags is a commendable decision by the Government. At the same time more and more people are recycling what they use, and in rural areas indigenous knowledge is used to adapt to the new environment.


Through the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+), the EU is supporting Tanzania's government in strengthening the capacity of some of the most affected communities against the impact of climate change, particularly in highly vulnerable sectors such as agriculture.


Nine European citizens out of ten ask for decisive climate action. Our children rely on us. Europeans want their Union to act at home and lead abroad. In these very days, the whole world has gathered in Madrid for the United Nations’ conference on climate, to discuss collective action against global warming.


The European Green Deal is Europe’s response to our people’s call, and a contribution for a better world.

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