European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has highlighted the importance of EU environmental action by creating a new role of Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal.
Today’s announcement follows a promise from von der Leyen to present a Green Deal for Europe within 100 days of taking office on 1 November. Climate and environment were major issues all over the EU in European Elections in May leading to a ‘Green Wave’ of success for candidates backing green policies.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ groups with 150 member organisations in more than 30 countries.
Responding to today’s announcement EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates said:
People in Europe want to see more done to help nature thrive. EU laws have helped to deliver clean air and water, safer and more efficient products, strict rules for polluting industry and much more. For both climate and the environment, the next five years will be crucial, so we welcome all efforts to deliver an ambitious Green Deal and a leading role for Frans Timmermans as Executive Vice President.
We remain concerned about the fact that none of the new candidates put forward had significant green credentials. We want to give the benefit of the doubt to the new Commission, but those with environment-related portfolios will have a lot to prove when they face the Parliament in the forthcoming hearings.
While von der Leyen has gone to lengths to highlight the need for environmental action, it is regrettable that she has stuck to tired arguments about ‘red tape’. Her insistence on a ‘One In, One Out’ approach to regulation is misguided and outdated and could unnecessarily tie the Commission’s hands when new rules are required.
The appointment of von der Leyen’s team follows political guidelines she published in July. Von der Leyen has made various commitments on climate action including:
A climate neutral EU by 2050
An improved ETS
A carbon border tax
A move away from unanimous decision-making on climate and energy
2030 emission reduction targetsof at least 50% and moving‘towards’ 55%
Other notable environmental priorities include:
€1trn of sustainable finance investment and turning part of the European Investment Bank into Europe’s climate bank
A 2030 biodiversity strategyto stop biodiversity loss within five years
A new circular economy action plan that addresses textiles and construction sectors
A‘zero-pollution’ target delivered through a cross-cutting strategy to protect citizens’ health from environmental degradation and pollution
A“farm to fork” strategy on sustainable food
Von der Leyen’s guidelines also include a promise to use the EU’s budget to support the rule of law, which could provide a key tool to ensure the proper implementation and enforcement of EU environmental laws.
The commitment to a European Green Deal fits well with the widely-supported call for an ambitious 8th Environmental Action Programme.