Making Europe the first climate-neutral continent in the world is a major goal set by the European Commission hand in hand with the EU Green Deal.

“The European Green Deal is, in short, a commitment to the future, an opportunity to achieve a sustainable economy that will reward society by allowing future generations to meet their needs, for Europe to lead the fight against climate change and to drive cooperation between the different countries.” – Public Agency Ihobe.

In more detail, the EU Green Deal aims to reach no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 (reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels), a stable and sustainable economic growth decoupled from resource use, and an inclusive society that leaves no one behind. To that aim, the European Commission has launched a series of initiatives seeking to make key sectors of the EU’s economy fit to meet the challenge; working on the following areas through different actions:

  1. Transforming our economy and societies
  2. Making transport sustainable for all
  3. Leading the third industrial revolution
  4. Cleaning our energy system
  5. Renovating buildings for greener lifestyles
  6. Working with nature to protect our planet and health
  7. Boosting global climate action

The EU Green Deal was presented in December of 2019, and now we are entering year #3 of the initiative. Keep reading if you want to find out where we stand now in the timeline of this proposed change, and where we are going next!

Key steps in the timeline: the EU Green Deal up until now

Here are the most important dates to highlight:

  • December 2019: Commission presents European Green Deal, committing to climate neutrality by 2050
  • March 2020: Commission proposes European Climate Law to write 2050 climate neutrality target into binding legislation
  • September 2020: Commission proposes a new EU target to reduce net emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and add it to the European Climate Law.
  • December 2020: European leaders endorse Commission’s proposed target to reduce net emissions by at least 55% by 2030
  • April 2021: Political agreement reached on European Climate Law by European Parliament and the Member States
  • June 2021: European Climate Law enters into force.
  • July 2021: the EU Commission presents a package of proposals to transform our economy, to reach 2030 climate targets. European Parliament and the Member States negotiate and adopt package of legislation on reaching our 2030 climate targets.
  • September 2021: launching of the New European Bauhaus: new actions and funding aimed at culture and society.
  • July 2022: adoption of the EU “Fit for 55” package of additional policies.

What has been achieved so far?

Some noticeable milestones include, according to the World Economic Forum, the following actions:

  1. EU’s 55% emissions reduction targets become legally binding for member states through the European Climate Law, adopted in July 2021.
  2. The plan to overhaul 220 million buildings by 2050 is adopted in June 2021 in the framework of the EU Renovation Wave. The plan aims to increase their environmental performance while generating cost savings for households.
  3. 65 organisations sign the EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices (deliverable under the Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy) in its launching in July 2021. The goal: increase the availability and affordability of healthy and sustainable food options. In July 2022, 126 organisations are official signatories of this document, including companies like Carrefour, Danone, or Arla Foods; associations like COPA COGECA and supporters like EIT-Food.
  4. The setting of specific environmental targets for the next decades in the EU Action Plan Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil (adopted in May 2021). The plan aims to reduce premature deaths due to air pollution by 55%, plastic litter in the sea by 50% and residual municipal waste by 50%, among other changes by 2030.
  5. The commitment to reinforce the adaptive capacity of the EU and minimize vulnerability to climate change was (February 2021): detailed in the EU strategy on Adaptation and Climate Change.

What does the future look like for the EU Green Deal?

The 2020 worldwide COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on initiatives directed towards a sustainable transition in different sectors, such as the EU Green Deal. However, as the European Commission stated, “The European Green Deal is also our lifeline out of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Now, new objectives are in line. As a start, the adoption of the EU “Fit for 55” package in July is expected to mark an essential step in overhauling climate policies and enabling the EU to deliver on its commitment to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 (thus, the name of the “Fit for 55” package), according to the World Economic Forum.

“The Fit for 55 package is a set of proposals to revise and update EU legislation and to put in place new initiatives with the aim of ensuring that EU policies are in line with the climate goals agreed by the Council and the European Parliament.” – European Council, European Green Deal.

This set of proposals works in an interconnected manner, looking to align the EU’s climate, energy, land use, transport, and taxation policies. In other words, it is a relevant step to transform ambition into law, making the implementation of effective measures real in EU member countries. For example, a cornerstone element in the package is the strengthening of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), which expects to increase the reduction of the annual rate of emissions from 2.2% to 4.2%

Therefore, the coming years will witness the development of negotiations and the launching of different new initiatives connected to the pack of policies of the “Fit for 55” package. Ultimately, looking to reach the goals set for 2030 – delivering a reduction of emissions of at least 55% compared to 1990 levels – and 2050 – becoming the first climate-neutral continent.

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