BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Union’s executive Commission, has made combating climate change one of her top priorities.
She is expected to lay out details of her “European Green Deal” after taking office on Dec. 1 and deliver it within 100 days.
As U.N. climate talks get underway in Madrid next week, here is a rundown of what we know about von der Leyen’s plan to make the EU “the world’s first climate-neutral continent” by 2050.
Von der Leyen has said she wants the EU to reduce carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, considerably more than the current agreed goals of 40% by 2030.
She has also committed to exploring the possibility of raising the target to as high as 55% in a “responsible way”.
These ambitions have been criticised from all sides: some say a 55% target would cripple European industries while green organizations are pushing for 60% or even 70% cuts by 2030.
As part of the European Green Deal, the Commission will start work immediately on a carbon border tax on polluting foreign firms in an effort to shelter EU businesses striving to become environmentally friendly.
Von der Leyen has said the new tax will comply with World Trade Organization rules and start on a “number of selected industries.” In October, steel giant ArcelorMittal Europe came out in favour of a carbon border tax, calling it “effective and fair.”
She will also reform the EU’s emissions trading system, which taxes polluting industries, and will work to include the maritime and aviation sectors as well as the traffic and construction sectors.
Several of the EU’s 28 member states, predominantly from eastern Europe, have flagged that they need significant financial aid to transition away from fossil fuels. The incoming Commission’s answer is the Just Transition Fund.
The new Commission has not communicated how large the fund might be. Its size will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027 and the bloc’s cohesion funds, but is expected to amount to tens of billions of euros.
The Just Transition Fund would allow fossil fuel-dependent regions to finance their transition to clean industries and energy sources and retrain workers for higher-tech sustainable industries.
CLIMATE-FRIENDLY INVESTMENT POLICIES
The European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU’s lending arm, decided on Nov. 15 to cease funding fossil fuel projects at the end of 2021. This move is in line with von der Leyen’s goals for the bank, which she wants to turn into “Europe’s climate bank”.
She has said she wants the EIB to dedicate half its total financing to climate investment by 2025.
She also plans to fund parts of the European Green Deal policies with a “Sustainable Europe Investment Plan”, which will support one trillion euros in investment over the coming decade.
Von der Leyen also promised to take a fresh look at the EU farming strategy with policies such as the “Farm to Fork Strategy”, designed to help farmers produce food in more sustainable ways.
The Green Deal will also include a biodiversity strategy for the coming 10 years and von der Leyen has said she wants the EU to take a lead role in protecting biodiversity at the United Nations’ biodiversity summit in 2020.
Editing by John Chalmers and Giles Elgood