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European nations, minus Poland, endorse sweeping 'Green Deal' proposals

By Don Jacobson
European nations, minus Poland, endorse sweeping 'Green Deal' proposals
European Council President Charles Michel (left) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (right) appeared at the end of the second day of a European Council summit Friday in Brussels. EU leaders gathered to discuss climate change, among other issues. Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE

Dec. 13 (UPI) -- European Union leaders agreed Friday on an ambitious target to make the bloc "climate neutral" by 2050 as part of a sweeping "Green Deal" plan to transform the continent's economy.

After a two-day summit, European Commission President Charles Michel announced that 27 EU member nations had backed the proposals, providing a "roadmap with actions" meant to move Europe toward "a clean, circular economy" and to stop climate change.

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Only Poland, which derives 80 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants, opted out of the 2050 emissions targets, pleading for more time to implement the proposed move away from fossil fuels.

Analysts said the Green New Deal package represents the bloc's biggest policy changes since its founding, affecting nearly every aspect of the European economy in an effort to address the root causes of climate change.

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Among its provisions are a halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; the first "European Climate Law" which would make the 2050 zero-emissions target legally binding; a biodiversity strategy for 2030; and new climate-based strategies for industry and "sustainable" agriculture.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in her first major effort since her November election to post, said achieving the proposed climate targets will would likely require $290 billion of additional annual investments.

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"The Commission will present in early 2020 a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to help meet investment needs," she said, calling for at least 25 percent of the EU's long-term budget to be dedicated to climate change.

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Von der Leyen also announced the EU will institute a "Just Transition Mechanism" to support Eastern Europe and other regions "that rely heavily on very carbon intensive activities," meant to provide access to "re-skilling programs" and jobs in the green technology sector.

Eastern European nations such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic balked at the proposals during the Brussels summit. While Poland ultimately refused to sign on, the Czechs did so after winning an explicit acknowledgment of the need for nuclear power in the summit declaration.

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