What lies ahead for the European Green Deal, the EU’s roadmap towards a sustainable zero-emission economy, as it faces political difficulties ahead of the 2024 European elections?
In a bid to make Europe climate neutral by 2050, the European Commission has launched key green legislation and aims to mobilize at least €1 trillion in sustainable investments over the next decade.
However, the deal has hit some hurdles with growing opposition from conservative lawmakers and some in the construction, agriculture and energy sectors as the commission races to meet its interim goals.
So, what does the future hold for the European Green Deal?
This is what Euronews correspondent Sasha Vakulina asked Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek Prime Minister; Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission; Ester Baiget, President and CEO of NovozimeDenmark, and Maksym Timchenko, CEO of DTEKUkraine, at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss town of Davos last week.
“European Green Deal, anyone?”
The Greek Prime Minister underlined his enthusiasm and continued support for the Green Deal, referring to the catastrophic floods that devastated parts of central Greece in September 2023.
“Since then we have had a geopolitical shock and it has also been incredibly clear that some of the solutions offered by the Green Deal make profound economic sense,” he said.
Greece has made significant progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and boasts a growing number of renewable energy technologies, but Europe as a whole still has a long way to go to prepare, according to European Commission Vice President Šefčovič to a zero-carbon economy. future.
“The Prime Minister knows very well that very often we cannot maximize our wind and solar energy potential, we have so-called curtailment because our networks are not capable of transporting electricity to end consumers.
“Because the networks don’t have that capacity or because we don’t have enough interconnectors in Europe… we really need to make sure that we invest in the networks and build them to be ready, not for next year, but to be ready for a climate-neutral future by 2050,” Šefčovič added.
The Slovakian diplomat also expressed Brussels’ optimism for the future of the Green Deal: “I am optimistic… I belong to a category which, as I understand it, is described by political scientists as a ‘happy warrior’. Being in this sector , you have to be optimistic because you see what kind of distance we have already covered.”
Ester Baiget also shared her opinions with Euronews from a purely economic point of view, she is also optimistic and says that the Green Deal “is taking us all in the right direction”.
“There is a strong dependency [on] the fossil base that we simply cannot ignore. Therefore investments must be aimed at the future. Every single investment must be in green energy. For solar, for wind, for methane, for Power-to-X, injecting liquidity, investments, these precious dollars, these precious euros, into the solutions of the future.
“The same goes for food, for agriculture, for investment in regenerative agriculture, for investment in plant-based proteins… this should be a gradual step and will generate growth and jobs.”
What does the Green Deal mean for Europe?
The Green Deal was implemented by the current administration to help Europe transition to a resource-efficient economy and address climate change, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, increase food security and ultimately generate net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Contains targets for the energy, mobility, agriculture and construction sectors with intermediate targets set for 2030 Suitable for 55 The legislative package precisely defines the actions needed to achieve the 2030 target.
The Commission has promised to mobilize €1 trillion over a ten-year period to help Europe with the transition and to ensure that no Member State is left behind in the process. This money will be taken from the NextGenerationEU recovery planthe EU budget and grants from public and private investors.
But, according to Brussels, the EU will still have to invest 1,500 billion euros per year between 2031 and 2050 if it wants to reach its final goal. A milestone is for member states to reduce their emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030.
Who is making progress?
Preliminary calculations carried out by Energy transition of the Agora think tanks in early January suggest that CO2 emissions across Germany have already fallen by 73 million tonnes, compared to 2022 figures, the lowest levels seen since the 1950s.
Additionally, the think tank reported that renewable energy sources accounted for more than half of the country’s energy production in 2022, while electricity production using black coal also fell to 8.9% from 12.8%.
Despite these successes in Germany, some industrial sectors and businesses, as well as the agricultural community, believe that complying with EU environmental regulations is too difficult due to inflation and rising energy prices following the invasion on large scale of Ukraine by Russia. . This in turn has fueled predominantly right-wing climate-sceptic parties in their calls for a pause in environmental legislation, which argue that the transition to zero emissions from fossil fuels is too costly.
In the face of political difficulties, the EU has promised to press on towards its goal but, with the European elections on the horizon, it has become clear that public support is crucial for the future survival of the Green Deal.
“When you want to build public support, you have to start with obvious, win-win solutions,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis advised, “and pay close attention to agriculture, because agriculture in itself is a very, very complex topic. It’s very difficult to decarbonize. And we have to be very sensitive when it comes to the reactions of our farmers.”
Balancing the transition with energy goals and security
Maksym Timchenko, CEO of DTEK, the largest Ukrainian private investor in the energy sector, also spoke: “We are in a situation where we have to balance coal mining and coal-fired energy production, which at the moment plays a crucial role in national security.
“We currently have thousands of coal miners working in Ukraine. On the other hand, Ukraine is committed to following all standards and regulations from Europe. So, for us, it is extremely important that this is done fairly for the next ten years”
According to Prime Minister Mitsotakis, the future of energy security is clear. “In the short term, we want to be an energy supplier at least for the Balkans, building strong interconnections, gas pipelines, floating storage and regasification units in northern Greece, exploiting our unique geographical potential, possibly also, if necessary, exporting gas up to ‘Ukraine because, if you look at the map, the distance is not that far,’ he said.
“Part of our medium to long term plan is to really step up when it comes to offshore wind. But to do this we must also build the necessary interconnections,” she said.