Drumroll, please. The President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen unveils her shiny early Christmas present to all future generations: the Green New Deal for Europe.
But wait: what is that peeking through the sparkly, green, eco-friendly wrapping paper? Looks just like the old mantra of “jobs, growth, competitiveness” we’ve been getting year after year from the Juncker Commission!
The #EUGreenDeal is not only about emissions.
➡️It’s about boosting innovation.
➡️It’s about quality food.
➡️It’s about modern mobility.
It will create new businesses & markets all across 🇪🇺.
The #EUGreenDeal is our new growth strategy.
It is not consuming but it gives back.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 11, 2019
Let’s look more closely. The package is overflowing: 50 different measures! Surely there’s something here for everyone: from trendy buzzwords to mysterious jargon to big tasty numbers and clear targets. A narrative change so big and bold to warm our green tree-hugging hearts through the cold winter nights.
But, we look and look, and we can’t find what we’ve asked for: climate justice for all, and an end to fossil fuels.
“There’s just no pleasing these climate campaigners” they’ll say. Yeah, we’re picky. The actual survival of people and planet is at stake. You can’t half-save the world.
So let’s get serious for a moment. The Green New Deal for Europe – though lacking a lot of detail to give it teeth – is a step in the right direction. A small step, not the giant leap that Ursula Von Der Leyen is suggesting with her “Europe’s man on the moon” metaphor. But it’s a start.
The problem is, solving the climate crisis we’re in will take more than a small step. It will take a giant leap: the courage to admit that we need to fundamentally transform and restructure our economies, and fast.
A “man of the moon” moment could be:
1. a historic breakthrough for science
2. a one-off media stunt with no follow through
— 350.org Europe (@350Europe) December 11, 2019
We don’t have time for a new “greener” business-as-usual that puts economic growth and profit over people’s lives and the living planet. We urgently need to overhaul the myth of unending growth, and change how we value, produce and consume resources. A Green New Deal for Europe must deliver not only a rapid drop in greenhouse gas emissions, but also justice, equity and resilience to climate impacts – it cannot stay just a narrative, like new wrapping around an old package.
Now, let’s talk about the money to pay for all this: Von Der Leyen’s promise of 100 billion euro to support a low-carbon just transition across Europe is great. Rethinking the redistribution of resources is something we’re on board with, so why not start big!
Money can do a lot of good – but also a lot of bad. The progress we make by investing billions in clean renewable energy for all will be lost if public and private banks across Europe continue to pump money into the fossil fuel industry.
Conspicuously missing from Von Der Leyen’s proposal is a promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, stop granting loans and bailouts to coal, oil and gas, and demand that the polluters pay for the damage they caused – and help fund the solutions we need to fix it. And in the age of climate emergency, that’s just not good enough.
A European Green New Deal which stays silent about the need to urgently phase out all fossil fuels (that includes fossil gas, Ms Von Der Leyen!) is like an airline company ending single-use plastic on their planes, and claiming credit for “sustainability”. Sure, it’s the right thing to do, but it sort of misses the point. Worse: it obscures the real problem and prevents us from finding real solutions before it’s too late.
Ms. @vonderleyen, more old “green growth and jobs” mantra isn’t what the EU Green New Deal needs.
— 350.org Europe (@350Europe) December 11, 2019
The Green New Deal package which Von Der Leyen unveiled yesterday isn’t a game-changer. It’s the least the EU can do to prevent the literal collapse of human civilisation. We helped put the world in the mess we’re in right now and we got rich doing it, so we must do our best to fix it.
The real game-changer here is the growing, vocal, youth-led climate justice movement unafraid to confront the hard truths and call for real solutions. The EU Green Deal plan looks like a response to demands which we’ve been shouting on the streets and painting on banners a decade ago. Back then, Von Der Leyen’s proposal would have been revolutionary. But the game has changed. Now, it just isn’t enough. We asked for more.
So here’s our Christmas wish of the good people in the leadership of the European Union:
Step up your game. Because it’s almost 2020 and you no longer have the privilege of time to make mistakes: you need to get this one right.
We’ll give you a hint: start with immediately ending all new fossil fuel projects, by refusing permits and finance. Then, quickly phase out the existing coal, oil and gas infrastructure while redirecting the money to renewable energy and fair, sustainable jobs.
And as you do all that, keep challenging the destructive paradigm of growth, consumption and profit, and instead center justice, wellbeing and resilience. That’s the sort of Green New Deal for Europe that today’s kids need, and deserve.