On Wednesday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed the EU’s status quo and announced her vision for a better union. This vision includes the reduction of greenhouse gases and additional authority for the EU on health issues.
Ambitious EU Greenhouse Gas Goal
Von der Leyen has called for the European Union’s greenhouse gases to be at least 55 percent below the 1990 level within the next ten years. She outlined her proposal for the drastic tightening of the EU climate target in her speech on the European Union’s State in Brussels on Wednesday.
So far, the official target had been a reduction of “only” 40 percent. However, the tightening to “at least 55 percent” aims to comply with the Paris climate protection agreement and stop the earth from “overheating.” The new target must be clarified with the EU Parliament and the EU states in the next few weeks.
Too Much for Some, Not Enough for Others
Von der Leyen is cognizant that this increase in the savings target is too much for some and not enough for others. However, the EU Commission’s impact assessment displayed that business and industry could cope with the now proposed increase in efforts. While the target was ambitious, it was also feasible, and most importantly, the path forward for Europe, von der Leyen stated.
And indeed, the new target means drastic additional efforts in climate protection. According to the EU Commission, around 25 percent reduction was achieved in the 29 years from 1990 to 2019. Now, 55 percent ought to be achieved in less than ten years. The Greens are even calling for an inconceivable 65 percent cut.
Von der Leyen seeks to use the coronavirus reconstruction program worth 750 billion euros for the enormous investments required. Thirty percent of this sum, which the EU seeks to finance through joint debts, will be procured from “green bonds.”
European money should primarily be invested in projects with the most significant possible impact, including hydrogen, renovating houses, and a million charging stations for electric vehicles.
Buildings, which today account for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, should not waste as much energy in the future. They could even absorb CO2 with innovative technology and ecological building materials such as wood in the future. A wave of innovation is necessary, according to von der Leyen.
How Much Will it all Cost?
The EU Commission’s calculations indicate that investments in energy production and use alone would have to be increased by 350 billion euros annually for the new climate target compared to the past ten years. The consumption of coal needs to decrease by 70 percent compared to 2015, and the share of renewable energies in total energy consumption needs to increase to up to 40 percent. Moreover, older buildings needed to be renovated and made “climate-ready” at twice the speed as before.
In addition, some requirements for the energy sector and industry would have to be tightened further, including the CO2 limit values for cars. The ETS emissions trading system, which so far only includes power plants and factories, needs to be expanded to include buildings and transport.
The EU Commission head also calls for more power and additional monetary funds for the European Union regarding health issues.
Specifically, von der Leyen proposed a new EU agency for biomedical research and development. She also urged the European Parliament to negotiate more funds for the “EU4Health” health program.
Moreover, von der Leyen intends to schedule a global health summit in Italy next year. According to von der Leyen, one needed to ensure that the EU was better prepared for future crises and possesses the capabilities to react to cross-border health threats.
Von der Leyen once again praised doctors and nurses’ achievements in the Corona crisis and affirmed that Europe, after initial selfishness, had rediscovered the value of solidarity. Indeed, according to her the pandemic showed how fragile and vulnerable the world is and how the European Union ultimately came together as a community of shared values.