The transition towards a low-carbon and sustainable economy has been accelerating at an unprecedented political momentum in Europe. Since the launch of the Green Deal as the new growth strategy, the European Commission has been working to provide a legal framework to achieve climate-neutrality by 2050, while decoupling economic growth from resource use. However, with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, concerns about the impact of the crisis on the Green Deal agenda are arising.
On March 4, the Commission presented its proposal for the first European Climate Law, which sets the long-term strategy to meet the climate-neutrality goals with the institution committing itself to reviewing the 2030 targets and establishing important deadlines that are now being threatened. With health now the short-term priority, it is unlikely that, by September 2020, the Commission will present a plan to increase the 2030 targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction to at least 50%, and aiming at 55% compared to the 1990 levels.
The increase in the 2030 targets is an opportunity for the European Union to strengthen its commitment to climate-neutrality and endorse its leadership in making efforts to combat climate change. For the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in November of this year, countries have been asked to overhaul their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. However, it is not clear if the Conference will take place on the planned date since it is still hard to predict what will happen regarding the coronavirus crisis in the upcoming months. Even before the chances of delays, the possibility of obtaining the approval of the Climate Law and an increase in the 2030 goals had been remote.
Some of the Green Deal related initiatives have already been delayed. The presentation of the ‘farm to fork strategy’ to achieve sustainable food systems and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 that were supposed to have been adopted by the end of March have been postponed, and it is likely that the same will occur with other initiatives. The pandemic might also slow down the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the EU long term budget, which plays a crucial role in financing the transition towards a low carbon economy
However, prior to the present economic halt, the European Commission had already adopted an important measure in communicating the new industrial strategy for Europe, which envisages driving European competitiveness and making it a world leader in industry, while paving the way to climate-neutrality and shaping the European digital future.
Although it is undisputed that this emergency will have an impact on the foreseen timeline, the Green Deal still remains a long-term priority on the EU agenda.