Wednesday marked a critical turning point for the European Union and a source of criticism from Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
For the first time ever, the European Commission unveiled a climate law — the European Union’s Green Deal — which intends on achieving carbon neutrality across the 27 member states by 2050. The European model would be similar in scope to the proposed Green New Deal by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But for many environmental activists, including Greta Thunberg, the 2050 goal is far too distant and unambitious.
What is the European Green Deal?
The EU released its comprehensive climate action plan on Wednesday. The European Green Deal aims to completely restructure every major aspect of the European economy. In doing so, the 27-member-state organization would rewrite industries such as travel, food, manufacturing, and construction. This, in turn, would ensure a carbon neutral European Union by 2050.
During the proposed launch of the European Green Deal, the European Commission’s new president, Ursula von der Leyen, stressed the importance of an environmental policy backbone to her colleagues in Brussels.
“It will be our compass for the next 30 years and it will guide us every step as we build a sustainable new growth model,” von der Leyen said.
“[The European Green Deal] shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming, so that we live healthier [lives] and make our businesses innovate. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast,” von der Leyen continued.
The policy includes measures to halve carbon output by 2030 and become completely neutral by 2050. In addition, the EU would reallocate funds from the common agricultural policy and fishing subsidies to combating climate change. It would also enforce better regulations on air quality, deforestation, and nature restoration.
Notably, the policy would be binding, enforcing compliance from every EU member state.
Greta Thunberg Insists More Action Needed
For some, the goalpost year of 2050 is far too late. Environmental activists and non-governmental organizations alike have spoken out about the inefficacy and leisurely pace of the European Green Deal. This movement, spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, has revealed the missed opportunities to work faster.
Calling the policy plan a “surrender,” Greta Thunberg was quick to stress the ignored urgency of climate action.
“When your children set off the fire alarm you went outside, took a look and smelt the air, and stated, yes, the house is actually burning,” Ms. Thunberg continued, highlighting the willingness of the EU to agree, but not act, on the climate crisis.
“You yourselves declared we’re in a climate emergency,” she reminded the European Commission on Wednesday.
“When your house is on fire, you don’t wait a few more years to start putting it out. And yet this is what the commission are proposing today,” she told Members of the European Parliament. “This was no false alarm but you went back inside, finished your dinner, watched your movie and went to bed without calling the fire department,” she added.
Insisting this plan gives up on the Paris Agreement, Greta Thunberg went on to call the policy a surrender. Pleading to those in power, she asked them to “unite behind the science.”
Environmental Groups Support Greta Thunberg
Receiving praise, other activists and groups have backed Ms. Thunberg’s response.
Agreeing with Thunberg, the European Director of Greenpeace, Franziska Achterberg, spoke out. “The climate targets [that the European Commission is] proposing would be too little, too late,” she said. The group argues that the EU’s proposed 55% drop in carbon emissions by 2030 would be greatly insufficient.
The Climate Action Network also stepped forward in this criticism. “Timing is everything. Now EU member states have a big responsibility to agree on a much higher 2030 climate target at the European Council in June 2020,” said the European chapter’s director, Wendel Trio.
While the European Green Deal takes a first step at the climate crisis, Greta Thunberg will not settle for anything less than serious change.
In an open letter, she joined 33 other climate activists to demand the EU begin work on the climate fix now — not by 2050.