The European Union’s ambitious Green Deal, initiated in December 2019, aimed to revolutionize energy, climate, and environmental policies. While the initiative successfully weathered unexpected crises and made significant progress, it now faces a noticeable slowdown as it reaches its final stages. Pushbacks on environmental legislation and shortcomings in industrial policy are posing challenges to the EU’s path towards sustainability.
In this article, we explore the key factors affecting the Green Deal’s progress and potential solutions to overcome these obstacles.
The Green Deal’s Progress Amid Turbulent Times
Despite enduring economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine, the Green Deal emerged stronger, with the EU enshrining its net zero goal into law for 2050. Additionally, the initiative bolstered its targets on emissions reduction, renewable energy, and energy efficiency in response to the Ukraine war, while introducing a law to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 and a carbon tariff at the EU’s border to protect European industries from environmental dumping.
Challenges Leading to a Slowdown in 2023
Despite the initial momentum, 2023 has witnessed a slowdown in the Green Deal’s progress. EU leaders have called for a halt on new green laws, and the European Parliament’s right-wing has opposed biodiversity legislation. The Nature Restoration Law, a critical component of the Green Deal’s biodiversity objective, faced contentious debate, with concerns raised by EU countries about its impact on farmers. The shifting political landscape has turned environmental legislation into a controversial issue, particularly regarding agriculture and land use.
Impact of Key Player Departures
The possible departure of Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s Green Deal superstar and climate advocate, raises concerns about potential leadership gaps in final negotiations on the Nature Restoration Law and the COP28 climate summit. Timmermans’ dedication to green legislation and environmental causes makes him a pivotal figure in the Green Deal’s success.
Shortcomings in Industrial Policy
While the EU set ambitious renewable energy and decarbonization targets for 2030, there has been a failure to implement a coherent industrial policy to support these objectives. Delays in the electricity market reform and the inadequate Net Zero Industry Act underscore the challenges in striking a balance between atomic energy and renewables among EU member states.
Tackling Challenges with a Green Deal 2.0
Experts emphasize the importance of a “Green Deal 2.0,” which prioritizes concrete initiatives for decarbonizing Europe’s economy. A collaborative approach that leverages the EU’s single market and economies of scale is crucial to compete with global counterparts, like China and the United States, who have implemented massive green industrial policies.
Ensuring Transparent Rollout and Gaining Public Support
To achieve the Green Deal’s goals, the next European Commission must ensure the proper rollout of agreed-upon laws across EU countries. Transparent communication with citizens is essential to avoid misconceptions about green policies being imposed by distant authorities. Public support is vital to prevent a “vicious cycle” where green legislation is agreed upon in Brussels but met with resistance back home.
Upcoming Elections and the Future of the Green Deal
The outcome of the European elections will shape the next Commission’s agenda. While a “green wave” was evident in previous elections, the rise of nationalist parties with reservations about EU environmental policies poses a challenge. Extreme weather events and public sentiment may tip the scales in favor of green politicians in future elections.
The European Union’s Green Deal has made commendable progress in the past four years, but it now faces pushbacks and challenges that could slow its advancement. Addressing policy shortcomings and embracing a Green Deal 2.0 approach are essential to overcome these obstacles and achieve the ambitious sustainability goals. Transparent communication and gaining public support are key to ensuring the EU’s climate and energy targets are met successfully.