Opinion

Europe’s Apollo 11 will not be about the moon

The European Green Deal has an ambitious double target to “reconcile the economy with the planet” and to become Europe’s “new growth strategy”.

By: Date: December 13, 2019 Topic: Energy & Climate

“This is Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment.” These are the bold words used by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen 11 days into her job as she presented her plan for a ‘European Green Deal’ aimed at creating the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

The plan includes 50 ideas, spanning from carbon pricing to green investments, from just transition measures to sustainable food systems, from a circular economy to sustainable mobility. Measures proposed under the plan include the introduction of a ‘Sustainable Europe Investment Plan’ aimed at unleashing green investments across the continent, and the creation of a Just Transition Mechanism to sustain the ones that – notably in coal and energy-intensive regions – will lose their jobs as a result of the transition.

The recipe for the success of the European Green Deal is as simple as it is breath-taking: to promote deep decarbonisation by accompanying the economic and industrial transformation this necessarily implies, and by ensuring the social inclusiveness of the overall process.

Should the strategy succeed, the European Green Deal might have substantial repercussions across the global economy. For instance, requiring compliance with strict environmental regulations as a condition of accessing the EU’s market of 500 million people should be a strong incentive to all other countries to adapt and change their production processes. There is also the possibility of introducing a carbon border tax, which would impose a tariff on goods entering the EU market on the basis of their carbon content, or the possibility of introducing stronger environmental clauses in trade agreements.

The European Green Deal will also become a blueprint for other countries and a tangible example that pursuing climate neutrality is technically feasible and economically and politically viable. This is particularly true in the case of the United States, as climate change is due to play an important role in the Presidential election next year.

To be clear, this will not be an easy ride. The scale of the challenge was exemplified by the result of the European Council, in which EU leaders failed once again to gain unanimous support for the 2050 climate neutrality target due to the opposition of Poland, which seeks higher financial support for the transition of its coal mining regions.

As in any revolution, there will be winners and losers. What a sensible European Green Deal should do is provide a clear sense of direction to citizens and companies, and put in place mechanisms to ensure that the most vulnerable segments of society are supported and not left behind.

But to be politically sustainable, policymakers must be honest about the nature of the European Green Deal, which should not be seen as an economic stimulus, but rather as an efficient reallocation mechanism, fostering investment shifts and labour substitution in key economic sectors while helping the most vulnerable segments of society throughout the process. In practice, this means promoting a shift from fossil fuels to renewables, turning combustion-engine car jobs into electric car jobs, compensating low-income households for higher fuel prices and re-training coal miners to get new jobs.

The philosopher Timothy Morton describes climate change as a “hyperobject”, a phenomenon so massively distributed throughout time and space that it disrupts everything it comes into contact with. To be effective, any European Green Deal will have to be just as omnipresent, not only in Brussels but around the world. Ursula von der Leyen says the ‘European Green Deal’ represents Europe’s ‘Man on the moon’ moment. I would say we are actually just starting building our own Apollo 11. But Europe’s Apollo 11 isn’t about the moon we see from the earth, it’s about the earth as seen from the moon, a fragile cosmic miracle.

 

To find out what’s inside the European Green Deal, listen to this special episode of the Sound of Economics:


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint.

Due to copyright agreements we ask that you kindly email request to republish opinions that have appeared in print to [email protected].

Read article More by this author
 

Opinion

Why China should fear the EU's carbon border tax

Expect Beijing to soon start lobbying against the proposal.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: July 26, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

External Publication

A Safety Net for the Green Economy

How to protect workers hurt by the fight against climate change.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 20, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Blog Post

The European Union’s carbon border mechanism and the WTO

To avoid any backlash, the European Union should work with other World Trade Organisation members to define basic principles of carbon border adjustment mechanisms.

By: André Sapir Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: July 19, 2021
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

Making sure green household investment pays off

Policies are needed to support green fuel switching by households; support should be phased out as the carbon price rises.

By: Ben McWilliams and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 19, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Upcoming Event

Sep
2
10:15

The role of the state in providing infrastructure for decarbonisation

Bruegel Annual Meetings, Day 2 - Who should be responsible for providing crucial infrastructure for decarbonisation and how should it be managed?

Speakers: Jean-Bernard Lévy, Diederik Samsom, Simone Tagliapietra, Laurence Tubiana and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Location: Palais des Academies, Rue Ducale 1
Read about event
 

Upcoming Event

Sep
3
10:15

Sustainable finance

Bruegel Annual Meetings, Day 3 - In this session on the final day of the Meetings, our panelists will discuss the future of finance and its sustainability.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Alberto De Paoli, Pierre Heilbronn and Alexandra Jour-Schroeder Topic: Energy & Climate, Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Palais des Académies, Rue Ducale 1, Brussels
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

A fitting plan for the European Green Deal?

How does the world's first roadmap for meeting climate goals stack up?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 15, 2021
Read article Download PDF
 

External Publication

Building the Road to Greener Pastures

How the G20 can support the recovery with sustainable local infrastructure investment.

By: Mia Hoffmann, Ben McWilliams and Niclas Poitiers Topic: Global Economics & Governance, Testimonies Date: July 15, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

‘Fit-for-55’ package: Squaring the circle

The European Union finds itself at the centre of a three-dimensional puzzle. Burdens need to be shared between 450 million citizens, 25 million businesses and EU countries in a way that is acceptable to enough of them.

By: Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 15, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Blog Post

Fit for 55 marks Europe’s climate moment of truth

With Fit for 55, Europe is the global first mover in turning a long-term net-zero goal into real-world policies, marking the entry of climate policy into the daily life of all citizens and businesses.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 14, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

The EU green bond standard: sensible implementation could define a new asset class

The proposed EU green bond standard will be less prone to ‘greenwashing’, and the widest possible set of issuers and jurisdictions should be encouraged to use the standard.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 13, 2021
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

A breakdown of EU countries’ post-pandemic green spending plans

An analysis of European Union countries’ recovery plans shows widely differing green spending priorities.

By: Klaas Lenaerts and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 8, 2021
Load more posts