By George Kyrkos
Going into the 3rd decade of the 21st century, and experiencing the warning climate change, the rapid implementation of the European Union “Green Deal” is becoming increasingly necessary. As presented by the European Commission at the end of 2019, the Green Deal was proposed as a sustainable development strategy with the main goal of neutralizing pollutant emissions, while ensuring the full utilization of renewable energy sources. Examining with a more detailed perspective, the Green Deal provides an action plan aimed at activating the circular economy using the appropriate financial tools to enable this transition. Of course, such a large undertaking can more or less affect the policy structure of the EU Member States, as there are some that will have to make a large effort which will require the corresponding resources in order to achieve the desired result.
First of all, the structure of its organization aims to strengthen those countries or regions which rely mainly on fossil fuels as the main source of energy. In particular, the action plan is based on three pillars according to the EU. The first of these is based on the provision of sustainable investments worth 1 trillion euro over a decade, with most of the investments focusing on strengthening the private sector, an action that will be carried out mainly by the European Investment Bank. The second pillar is the creation and provision of incentives for the redirection of public and private investments with the aim of introducing sustainable financing into the financial system in order to strengthen the transition regions and economies. Finally, the European Commission itself will provide support to public authorities to implement sustainability plans effectively.
The individual plans that make up the Green Deal cover most sectors of an economy. In particular, with regard to retail and industrial products, it is planned to introduce a well-functioning framework which will require a minimum amount of recyclable goods in the manufacturing of final products. In addition to the above, specific environmental tax reforms are planned to be implemented as well as better waste management actions aimed at the compliance of large-scale enterprises. With regard to the energy sector, the Deal includes the phasing out of lignite plants and coal mines, in addition to the increasing use of natural gas as a transitional fuel in an effort to reduce emissions. Therefore, this will lead to an increase in gas imports from Russia, the EU’s main gas supplier, as well as more dependence on neighboring countries in the Middle East and Africa in the event that solar panels are installed to exploit solar energy.
In the primary sector, a new strategy under the Green Deal will be implemented under the name “Farm to Fork Strategy”. The aim of this strategy will initially be to ensure the integrity of the agricultural sector, fisheries and the protection of biodiversity. Emphasis will also be placed on ensuring safe food, through the reduction of food waste and increased access to proper nutritional sources for financially disadvantaged families in Europe.
However, the implementation of reforms of this magnitude does not lack the problems that may hinder their smooth operation. A fundamental issue regards the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on EU Member States, as the diversity of each country implicates different problems for its economy. Another obstacle to the full implementation of the zero-emission plan is that, as mentioned above, some countries are much more dependent on non-renewable energy sources either due to geomorphologic profile or lack of suitable facilities for exploitation of non-renewable energy sources. This may increase the cost of the transition, thus it may take longer than expected for the full implementation of the plan.
Taking all facts into consideration, the speed with which the Green Deal of the European Union will be enforced seems to depend not only on the capabilities of the Member States, nor solely on the effectiveness of the design, but also on external factors and challenges that may affect its implementation transversely. However, if and when its goals are achieved on a gradual basis then the desired results may appear relatively soon.