Guest post from Hugo Schally, Head of Unit "Multilateral Environmental Co-Operation," European Commission Directorate General for the Environment.
The European Green Deal Communication opens with a promise to “reset” Europe’s commitment to tackling climate and environment-related challenges. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made the Green Deal as the cornerstone of the new Commission’s work over the next five years.
While the EU has long been considered a leader in the field of climate and environment policy, the Green Deal is the first time these areas are front and centre of the Union’s policy. The Green Deal is very ambitious, aiming for the EU to transition to a climate neutral, modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy as well as a fair and prosperous society.
Commission President von der Leyen has made the Green Deal many things: a work programme, a set of ambitions, a transformational tool – but it is also an ideal. Given the range and scale of environmental, climate and societal challenges we face today, the Green Deal offers a vision of a brighter, cleaner, more sustainable and just future. Moreover, it contains a roadmap that sets Europe on the path to try to achieve this future.
A circular economy is instrumental in delivering on the European Commission’s ambitions to decouple resource use from economic growth. The Green Deal aims to halt, and as much as possible reverse, the pressures we place on our planet’s resources, ecosystems, climate and biodiversity.
The urgent transformation outlined in the Green Deal is a call to change how we produce, consume and trade. One of the Green Deal’s most important contributions to the global Agenda 2030 will be related to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, which aims at achieving “sustainable consumption and production patterns.”
One of the tools to achieve this as well as the other SDGs will be a new circular economy action plan. The circular economy package will among other actions include a ‘sustainable products’ policy to support the circular design of all products with a focus on reducing primary resource use and promote further the reuse of materials, thus keeping the value embedded in materials and products in the economic cycle as long as possible.
The Commission also seeks to harness Europe’s collective consumer power as one of the world’s largest markets to promote and push for the adoption of more circular economic business models that prolong the functionality of products and reduce virgin material consumption and waste generation.
Succeeding in the circular economy will require the full contribution of EU industries and the Green Deal outlines ambitions to encourage industries and companies to integrate circular economy elements in their business models.
The Green Deal not only focuses on sustainable products and economic activities. It takes a more holistic approach to address current social and environmental challenges.
Biodiversity underpins vital environmental, social and economic functions. It is therefore not only placed at the heart of EU environmental policy, but the Commission wants biodiversity criteria to be fully factored into public, corporate and individual decisions at all levels, from farming and fisheries to trade, industry, energy, climate and economic policy.
Addressing the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and giving nature space to recover and thrive is a foundation of the European Green Deal and contributes to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nation’s Agenda 2030.
The European Commission is also committed to refocusing the European Semester process of macroeconomic coordination to integrate the SDGs, putting sustainability and the well-being of citizens at the centre of economic policy as well as centring the sustainable development goals at the heart of EU policymaking and action.
Most importantly, however, if the circular economy becomes more widely adopted, it can contribute to meeting many, if not all, SDGs through its benefits through not only economic advantages but also resource and environmental protection.
“Global” and “together” are two of the most frequently occurring words in the Green Deal Communication, making it not only an ambitious plan for the Union but a call to action for the rest of the world. Europe can succeed only if its transformative change is an inherent part of a global transition. The EU has many ways of engaging with the global community and wants to build on and strengthen its existing network of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral dialogues and processes. This means that the upcoming targeted initiatives will have a range of actions dedicated to the interaction with and support to the EU’s international partners.
The One Planet network as a facilitator and enabler of sustainable development can play an important role here through its work on sustainable consumption and production. Addressing the significant implementation gaps of SDG 12 requires international cooperation, something that should continue to be facilitated by the One Planet network which provides a platform for communication and knowledge sharing.
The Green Deal highlights the potential for sustainable consumption and production patterns, not only to reduce our impact on the planet, but also to provide a better life for citizens. Understanding the potential benefits of adopting sustainable consumption and production practices requires communication and sharing ideas with our partners around the world. As an implementation mechanism for SDG 12, the One Planet network can help bring these voices together.