European Green Deal: 8 key policy areas
Explaining the fundamental goals and policies of the European Green Deal.
The European Green Deal presents one of the most comprehensive and forward-looking initiatives to achieve continental climate-neutrality to date. In this article, we’ll breakdown eight of the Deal’s key policy areas to give you a fundamental understanding of what its goals are and how its policies will drive changes to achieve them.
In December 2019, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal in response to growing challenges related to climate change. The Deal outlines a comprehensive and aggressive proposal to transform the EU into the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
There are several sections of the European Green Deal that address ways to achieve climate-neutrality, transforming the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy. The primary goals under the Deal are identified as:
- Net zero emissions of greenhouse gasses by 2050.
- Economic growth is decoupled from the exploitation of resources.
- No one is left behind.
This transformational plan provides a roadmap for making the EU economy more sustainable — the intended results being a cleaner environment, more affordable energy, smarter transport, new jobs, and an overall better quality of life.
Key policies of the European Green Deal: A breakdown
In July 2021, the EU Commission presented a package of proposals and strategies for each focus area to help reach the European Green Deal’s goals. Here are the eight main policies included in the European Green Deal, with simple summaries to explain them.
1. Increase the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 and 2050
The main goal of the European Green Deal is to become climate neutral by 2050. In order to achieve this, the Commission proposed the European Climate Law, which was enacted by the European Parliament in 2021. The Law set goals to reduce net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and reduce emissions in all sectors.
2. Supplying clean, affordable, and secure energy
Energy consumption — and its production — accounts for more than 75% of the EU’s GHG emissions. Decarbonizing the EU’s energy system through solutions such as adopting more renewable energy sources is critical to reach the 2030 climate objectives and longer-term 2050 carbon emission neutrality goals.
3. Creating a clean and circular economy
Achieving a climate-neutral and circular economy requires the full mobilization of industry. It’s projected to take 25 years to transform an industrial sector and all its value chains. To be ready in 2050, decisions and actions need to be taken before 2025.
About half of total GHG emissions and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress come from resource extraction and the processing of materials, fuels, and food. European industry has started the shift, but still accounts for 20% of the EU’s GHG emissions.
The circular economy action plan will include a ‘sustainable products’ policy to support the circular design of all products based on a common methodology and principles. It will:
- Prioritize reducing and reusing materials before recycling them.
- Foster new business models and set minimum requirements to prevent environmentally harmful products from being placed on the EU market.
- Strengthen extended producer responsibility to capture the climate change mitigation of the full supply chain.
4. Efficient building and renovating
The construction, use, and renovation of buildings require significant amounts of energy and mineral resources — for example; sand, gravel, and cement. Buildings also account for 40% of energy consumed. When the European Green Deal was agreed in 2021, the annual renovation rate of building stock varied from 0.4% to 1.2% in the Member States. This rate will need to at least double to reach the EU’s energy efficiency and climate objectives, focusing on low-emission technologies, sustainable products, and services.
5. Accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility
Transport CO2 emissions and other air pollutants account for 25% of the EU’s total GHG emissions. The proposals set forth in the European Green Deal around transportation aim to reduce transport-related GHG emissions by 90% by 2050.
6. “From farm to fork”
The EU’s goals also cover the food industry, with the overarching goal of designing and delivering a fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly food system.
The aim is to achieve this by:
- Ensuring food security in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss.
- Reducing the environmental and climate footprint of the EU food system.
- Strengthening the EU food system’s resilience.
- Leading a global transition towards competitive sustainability “from farm to fork”.
7. Ecosystem and biodiversity preservation and restoration
The European Green Deal also sets out targets to address the management of forests and maritime areas, environmental protection, and the issue of species and ecosystem loss. The new EU forest strategy, for example, has key objectives around:
- Effective afforestation — the planting of new trees to create new forests.
- Existing forest preservation and restoration across Europe.
- Increasing the absorption of CO2.
- Reducing the incidence and extent of forest fires.
- Promoting bio-economy, in full respect for ecological principles favorable to biodiversity.
8. A zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment
Creating a toxic-free environment requires more action to prevent pollution from being generated, as well as measures to clean and remedy the pollution already in existence. To address these interlinked challenges, the Commission has adopted a zero pollution action plan for air, water and soil.
The big picture: A plan to improve the wellbeing of people now and in the future
It’s evident, then, that the European Green Deal is a broad-reaching, comprehensive strategy to encourage and implement long term changes to how industries across the continent operate — all with a singular, albeit expansive, goal in sight. Through this combination of policies, the European Commission intends and expects to improve the wellbeing of people and future generations by providing:
- Fresh air, clean water, healthy soil and biodiversity.
- Renovated energy efficient buildings.
- Healthy and affordable food.
- More public transport.
- Cleaner energy and cutting edge clean technological innovation.
- Longer lasting products that can be repaired, recycled and reused.
- Future proof jobs and skills training for the transition.
Globally competitive and resilient industry.