What exactly is the 'Green Deal'?

What the European Green Deal has to do with playing cards, and why it's 'cards on the table' from 2020.

Illustration: Erneuerbare Energien unter einer Lupe© BMWi

The Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives through which Europe is seeking to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. In 2020 and 2021, the European Commission will present around 50 measures that are to be used en route towards this goal. The Green Deal is one of the most important policies to be launched by the new European Commission.

Whenever a pack of playing cards is reshuffled and the cards dealt, you might hear the phrase 'new deal'. The term 'new deal' has, in fact, already been used in the context of the economy. Back in the 1930s, it was adopted by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to describe a series of measures to usher in a new start following the onset of the Great Depression. Europe wants to use the European Green Deal to make a new start in climate policy and become the first continent to be greenhouse-gas-neutral by 2050. In the years up to then, a large proportion of the emissions from burning coal, oil and gas, for example, will have to be prevented from arising, and a smaller proportion stored. But this has little to do with gambling. In a bid to reshuffle the cards, the European Commission wants to define comprehensive measures and targets and to implement these as part of its Green Deal.

'Cards on the table' in 2020 and 2021

In 2020 and 2021, it's time for the EU to put its 'cards on the table'. During this period, the European Commission wants to present around 50 measures in the areas of climate and environmental policy, energy policy, industry, transport policy and agriculture. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, even wants the EU's 2050 objective for achieving climate neutrality to be enshrined in EU law. In actual fact, negotiations towards a European Climate Law have already begun under the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. In the second half of 2020, the Presidency will be taken over by Germany as part of the rotation that takes place every six months.

When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the European Commission also wants to look at whether the intermediate target for 2030 can actually be raised. As it stands, the target for 2030 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels. By autumn 2020, the Commission wants to complete an assessment on whether Member States can and ought to strive towards achieving a higher level of reduction than that which has been set.

Green Deal to become driver of economic growth for Europe

For the European Union, the energy transition and the Green Deal are not only a strategy for modernisation, but also a driver of economic growth for the entire continent. In the comments he made recently on the Green Deal, Federal Minister Altmaier said the following: 'The German Government supports the European Commission in its ambitious project to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent through the European Green Deal. We will play an active role in this process, especially during the German Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2020. I regard the Green Deal as a growth strategy for our economy that will enable us to safeguard jobs with the help of innovations and new clean technologies.'

When it comes to implementing the Green Deal, the energy sector will play an important role, especially in view of the ongoing shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. The use of renewables is also to be increased in other sectors such as transport and heat. In addition, energy-intensive industry is due to become more climate-friendly, with the European Commission having already announced that various strategies are to be presented to achieve this goal.

Strategies to achieve climate neutrality in the energy sector

At the end of June, the EU expects to announce a climate neutrality strategy that is based on the use of sector integration and digital technology. The strategy focuses on using renewable energy, energy efficiency and other solutions to decarbonise all sectors in an affordable manner. In the future, the plan is for all of the sectors concerned to be able to function without the use of carbon-based energy sources.

There is also an initiative planned in the buildings sector called the 'renovation wave', which is expected to be published in the third quarter of 2020. The initiative will include measures to increase the rate of modernisation of the European building stock and to help achieve the energy efficiency and climate objectives.

The European Commission is additionally planning to release a strategy for offshore renewable energy in the fourth quarter of 2020. The strategy is to help more wind turbines be built in European seas.

How the Green Deal will be financed

In order to finance the Green Deal, the European Commission proposed establishing a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan (SEIP) in mid January. The EU wants to use this investment plan to mobilise public and particularly private investments of one trillion euros up to 2030 for combating climate change and protecting the environment. This will be in addition to national co-financing worth €114 billion. The investment plan includes direct funding from the EU budget as well as support from the InvestEU Fund, the Innovation and Modernisation Funds, and the specially established Just Transition Mechanism. It is intended to support regions that have up to now been particularly dependent on fossil fuels and for which efforts to achieve climate neutrality will be particularly difficult. The EU is planning to spend up to 100 billion euros on this task.