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 communication@bruegel.org.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Paying for the European Green Deal

The European Commission has presented its Just Transition Fund to help regions still dependent on fossil fuel as they move towards green energy. But where does the money come from and is it enough to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050? Should the EU re-write its fiscal rules to encourage sustainable investment? And should environmentalists be optimistic? Nicholas Barrett asked Simone Tagliapietra and Grégory Claeys.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: January 16, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

European green finance is expanding, a discount on bank capital would discredit it

If EU banks are to mobilise a greater share of loans for sustainable projects they will need a reliable policy framework, clear internal performance targets and the relevant skills. A discount on bank capital underlying such assets is neither justified nor likely effective. A comprehensive review of how climate risks are reflected in prudential regulation is nevertheless in order

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: January 15, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The Green Deal is not just one of many EU projects, it is the new defining mission

The EU has already invested so much of its political capital into the green transition that a failure to deliver would severely damage its legitimacy.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Energy & Climate Date: January 3, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

What's inside the European Green Deal?

President Ursula Von der Leyen has presented her European Green Deal before the European Parliament. How will it work? What are its implications? And will it make Europe carbon neutral by 2050? Nicholas Barrett asks  Simone Tagliapietra what's inside the Green Deal.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: December 11, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The European Green Deal needs a reformed fiscal framework

The European Green Deal should include a sustainable investment strategy that will help citizens change behaviour and companies switch technologies. But to finance it, the EU will have to increase the flexibility of its fiscal rules to encourage member states to invest in the transition.

By: Grégory Claeys Topic: Energy & Climate Date: December 10, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Why border carbon adjustment is important for Europe’s green deal

The European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen is pursuing ambitious environmental targets, notably to reach zero net emissions across the EU by 2050. This transition requires pricing emissions to incentivise producers to develop greener alternatives, while avoiding putting domestic producers at a disadvantage.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate Date: November 27, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

How to make the European Green Deal work (Part Two)

Nicholas Barrett and Guntram Wolff discuss industrial policy and the social consequences of the green deal with Grégory Claeys and Simone Tagliapietra.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: November 14, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Four pillars to make or break the European Green Deal

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

By: Simone Tagliapietra, Grégory Claeys and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: November 14, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

How to make the European Green Deal work (Part One)

The European Green Deal will be a defining feature of Ursula Von der Leyen's incoming Commission. But will carbon border taxes and single carbon prices be enough to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050? This week, Nicholas Barrett and Guntram Wolff discuss Bruegel's new paper 'How to make the European Green Deal Work' with Grégory Claeys and Simone Tagliapietra.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: November 7, 2019
Read article Download PDF

Policy Contribution

How to make the European Green Deal work

Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a European Green Deal that would make Europe climate neutral by 2050. With this Policy Contribution, the authors provide a first analysis on how to make this initiative work.

By: Grégory Claeys, Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 5, 2019
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

What industrial policy for the European Green Deal?

This event will be a workshop, aiming to look into the design and implementation process of the European Green Deal. Each session will be introduced by three short presentations aimed at launching the discussion among all workshop participants.

Speakers: Jos Delbeke, Bertrand Déprez, Markus Hess, Laura Piovesan, Megan Richards, Simone Tagliapietra, Mary Veronica Tovšak Pleterski, Kurt Vandenberghe and Reinhilde Veugelers Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: November 4, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Demystifying carbon border adjustment for Europe’s green deal

From carbon leakage to “green protectionism”, the European Green Deal envisioned by the incoming Commission has many critics. But some adjustments to the deal could make domestic manufacturers more carbon efficient while simultaneously encouraging foreign producers to become more environmentally friendly.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate Date: October 31, 2019
Load more posts