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The new European Commission President, Ursula Von der Leyen, has presented a new cross-sectoral strategy for tackling climate change and environmental degradation called the “European Green Deal”.

The deal is regarded as a roadmap of key policies and measures promising to transform the EU “into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.”

Central to the proposal is the objective of making Europe “climate neutral” by 2050, in other words pledging to reduce the continents emissions and increasing its carbon sequestration, to the point where they balance each other out. The pledge was discussed shortly afterwards by EU leaders at the Council Summit, held on 12 & 13 December in Brussels and was endorsed by all countries but Poland.

The target will be made a legal requirement under the incoming “European Climate Law”, expected to be tabled on the 26 February 2020.

Other initiatives under the proposed “European Green Deal” include:

  • A comprehensive plan to increase the EU 2030 climate target to at least 50% and towards 55%, with legislative proposals expected to be tabled by next summer. This will likely impact on the proposed 2030 targets set for the agricultural sector (under the non-ETS sectoral legislation).
  • The new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change is pencilled in for 2020/2021.
  • Tailored financial supports will be proposed in early 2020 for the regions and sectors most affected by the transition under a “Just Transitional Mechanism”, which is hoped will eventually bring Poland on-board, following its refusal to endorse the 2050 pledge due to its huge dependence on coal.
  • A ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy which will be tabled in spring 2020. As discussed here, this strategy will include measures to  reduce the use of pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics (beginning from 2021) as part of achieving a “zero pollution ambition” as well as to expand information available to consumers and promote “sustainable” healthy diets.
  • An EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 is due by March 2020, which will include measures to address the main drivers of biodiversity loss.
  • A new EU Forest Strategy with measures to support “deforestation-free value chains”.
  • In recognition  that the drivers of climate change are not limited by borders and that the ambitions of the Green Deal cannot be achieved by Europe acting alone, a proposal for a carbon border adjustment mechanism for selected sectors is on the cards for 2021, with the aim of reducing the risk of carbon leakage and convincing other countries to move with the EU.
  • A new Circular Economy Action Plan is expected on 4 March 2020.
  • In March 2020, the Commission will adopt an EU industrial strategy “to address the twin challenge of the green & digital transformation,”
  • In March 2020, the Commission will launch a ‘Climate Pact’ “to give citizens a voice & role in designing new actions, sharing information and organising grassroots activities”.

Many questions still remain as to the implications and degree of engagement of these policies on the agri-food sector, including what specific new targets will be set for the sector, how the Green deal and actions in the sector will be financed (especially given the proposed cuts to the CAP budget) and how to avoid any further delay to CAP reform, if the new CAP is to reflect the ambitions of the deal.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive