Are we de-prioritising the Green Deal because of the coronavirus outbreak?


03 mei 2020
Auteur(s): Geraldine Borja
The EU Green Deal, designed to make the European economy more sustainable, is now under threat due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Geraldine Borja

Contributing Writer

With the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on everyone’s shoulders, there will be a reversal in the initial actions to adopt the EU Green Deal and many other climate policy proposals, as explained by Robert Jeszke on EURACTIV. Jeszke is the Project Coordinator at the Centre for Climate and Energy Analyses (CAKE) and also works in the National Centre for Emission Management (KOBiZE) in Poland. Meanwhile, Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary have already mentioned that the EU should water down the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first continent with net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

The European Union’s Green Deal is based on: 

  • boosting the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy
  • restoring biodiversity and cutting pollution

The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has resulted in a tragedy for economic growth. We are seeing record drops in oil consumption and prices around the world. Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of fossil fuels? Unfortunately, we are not. Governments are crossing their fingers to see the curve flattened enough to relax their measures and boost once again their economies.

With the market and the borders opened, people will continue depending on fossil fuels (cheaper now), and they will keep buying and driving, as they did prior to the arrival of the virus.

Europe needs to see that putting aside the Green Deal (GD) is a setback. Several scientific studies have warned humanity for decades about the consequences of biodiversity loss and habitat destruction due to human activity. Our globalized lifestyle depends on a linear economic model that prizes economic growth at any cost is jeopardizing the planetary boundaries. However, we still have a chance (probably the last one) to change the economic paradigm and overcome the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones.

This pandemic is the momentum needed to provide the impetus for human beings to save people’s lives, but also to start adopting measures that protect the life of the other living species. For that reason, Europe needs to continue with the transformation of its economic priorities. Otherwise, global consumerism will continue undermining the natural systems and will trigger an unprecedented climate disaster, while keeping the door open to the spread of future exotic diseases.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Green Deal must go on

“The Green Deal is not over. Coronavirus will inevitably change these discussions, but this should not come at the expense of decarbonisation,” stated Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the EU's Internal Market. Europe is committed to doing everything necessary to support economic activity and to prepare the ground for recovery from the pandemic. However, it should do so ensuring longer-term economic sustainability, to prevent a future ecological crisis. That means that the EU must do everything to keep the Green Deal in place.  

The European GD is a response to environmental challenges and is now also the starting point for recovery from the pandemic. The measures proposed by the GD have followed research on how companies can develop and organize more local supply chains. In fact, we are currently seeing the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on long, global supply chains. However, as mentioned by the British astronomer - and self-described "doomster" - Sir Martin Ree, the first lesson that we must learn from this crisis is that we should not depend on non-resilient long supply chains.

There are a lot of companies, citizens, and international organizations going for the GD. However, we cannot be naive; this strategy is a political choice, and other opinions are counterproductive. In such circumstances, we have to make as much noise as possible to demand the signing of the GD. 

Even when we cannot go out and make a strike, we still have the power of social media to raise awareness of the dangers of continuing to boost an economy that prioritizes economic growth over the people and the environment.