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What exactly is the European Union Green Deal?

What is the content of the European Green Deal voted by the European Parliament? Find the answers to these and many other questions about climate legislation and climate policy on ETIKL Magazine.

That some countries are more ambitious than others when it comes to climate targets is no secret. But how does the European Union try to get its member states to move in the same sustainable direction? The answer can be found in The Green Deal, the ambitious climate plan of the European Commission under the chairmanship of Ursula Von der Leyen.

Since the summer of 2019, new European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen has been putting sustainability on the European agenda more than ever. Just ten days after taking office, the Commission approved the Green Deal, a sustainability plan with a nod to Roosevelt's 'New Deal'. The Green Deal wants to set the bar high again, following the Paris Agreement, by making Europe climate neutral by 2050.

What exactly does 'climate neutral' mean? By 2050, the European continent should not emit more CO2 than European forests can absorb. If we succeed, we will be the first carbon-free continent in the world. We are already on track, but we will not succeed unless we change course. If we continue at today's pace, our emissions will only be reduced by 60% by 2050.

As expected, not every country, and certainly not every economy, is eager to put the Green Deal into practice. In EU Member States such as Poland, for example, the local economy relies heavily on the extraction of fossil fuels such as coal. For countries like this, an extra investment mechanism is introduced, the 'fair transition mechanism', to support the economy during this transition to sustainability.

What is the content of the European Green Deal voted by the European Parliament? Find the answers to these and many other questions about climate legislation and climate policy on ETIKL Magazine.


The Green Deal consists of a range of initiatives to limit the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. "Look at it as fifty actions by 2050," said Von der Leyen. In those fifty points, new laws, directives and visions are announced, each of which must be officially approved and enter into force during 2020 and 2021. In March this year, the European Commission adopted the European Climate Change Act. This is the first important step in the implementation of the Green Deal: it legally establishes the Green Deal's central goal of making Europe climate-neutral by 2050.

The European Climate Act is a legal means to commit member states to their own efforts to achieve climate neutrality. The law does not specify the percentage by which emissions must be reduced by 2030. The European Commission will not determine that until September after further research.

Some specific examples of the Green Deal are the installation of 1 million extra electric charging stations by 2050 in order to encourage the purchase of electric cars. Old buildings must also be renovated much faster: the EU will have to double the speed and ensure a true 'renovation wave'. Social housing is a priority here, as renovation can also contribute to a stronger social policy: it can help families pay their energy bills.

Another remarkable point is that three quarters of the road freight must be converted to rail and water transport.In addition, non-recyclable packaging must disappear by 2030, consumers are given a 'right to repair' to reduce production and encourage the choice of sustainable materials, and companies are fined more severely if they engage in greenwashing.

Price tag

To realise the above ambitions, significant investments in renewable energy sources are needed. Unfortunately, this comes at a price. In order to meet the deadlines set for 2030, 260 billion euros will have to be invested annually. In other words: in the coming years, the European Investment Bank will almost become a climate bank.

How do the Netherlands and Belgium view the Green Deal?

As far as Belgium is concerned, it is mainly Flanders that is putting the brakes on for a strong climate policy. The Flemish government has already made it clear that it does not support the Green Deal. Today, the coalition agreement is still limited to a European agreement dating from 2009, when the goal was to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. "Making Flanders climate neutral by 2050 is not possible," said former Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois (N-VA).

The Netherlands, on the other hand, plays a leading role in making Europe more sustainable. With strong ambitions, the Netherlands has already drawn up petitions to tighten the climate targets by 2030 and has been asking for a more ambitious policy for years. Belgium repeatedly refused to sign those petitions in recent years. The Flemish climate plan for 2030 has already received a great deal of criticism, including from Frans Timmermans, the Dutch European Commissioner behind the Green Deal.