Will the COVID-19 Bring the European Green Deal down?



Now that contagion of the COVID-19 is slowing down in some countries, EU policymakers are starting to think of the situation after lockdown and are preparing policies that will aid in the recovery of the economy. Will the economic recovery plan become the number one priority? Will the environmental momentum driven by the European Green deal drop?

Different industries are calling for delaying the implementation of some environmental policies and some members of European governments are suggesting abandoning carbon pricing or even the European Green Deal as a whole.

General Opinion Towards the Green Deal is Favourable

However, the general opinion in the European institutions still seems to back a green deal. The heads of EU member states and governments reiterated the importance of a green transition in a statement published by the European Council on 26 March. Thirteen European climate and environment ministers confirmed this opinion on 9 April by calling for a recovery plan following the European Green Deal framework.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, is even proposing massive investment in the form of a Marshall Plan, that would build a “modern, sustainable and resilient Europe,” and fund, “innovative research, for digital infrastructure, for clean energy, for a smart circular economy, for transport systems of the future.” On 15 April, an alliance initiated this week by the chair of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament and signed by 180 policymakers, was formed around the commitment to shape a green recovery.

European Commission to Publish a Revised Work Plan

Amidst the political ambition, the reality of the COVID-19 crisis is catching up, and the European Commission will publish a revised work plan at the end of the month announcing delays to its initial deliverable promises. The main policies at risk of being impacted are the review of the 2030 climate target that is supposed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change and the New EU Forest Strategy, which are likely to be delayed now that the COP 26 has been postponed.

Although these delays are understandable given the current situation, it is important to keep the overall ambitious timeline of the European Green Deal. The green deal was not only designed to tackle climate change and other environmental issues but also to enhance prosperity and create jobs. By using this already existing framework when setting an unprecedented economic recovery plan, the EU now has the opportunity to guide the economy towards sustainability, be more resilient to future crises and help companies transition to carbon-neutrality.