European Green Deal launched

The European Green Deal was unveiled on Wednesday (11 December), laying out the European Commission’s (EC’s) plan to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

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The comprehensive deal proposes changes across the industries to reduce Europe’s carbon impact and pledges funding to ensure a smooth transition for workers who will be affected.

Among the deal’s proposed measures are plans to enforce a ‘sustainable products’ policy, which would prioritise reducing and reusing materials before recycling them. 

The EC has also suggested instating manufacturing standards to ensure that all packaging in the EU is reusable or recyclable by 2030 and exploring ‘take-back’ schemes to encourage people to return electronic devices for recycling.

Beyond waste management, the deal suggests specific measures to decarbonise energy and lower energy use – such as pricing different energy sources to favour energy-efficient buildings and developing the EU’s wind energy sector. 

Delivering greener forms of transport, improving air quality, protecting wildlife, and cutting pesticide use on food crops are also on the agenda.

The deal sets out a climate road-map, detailing dates by which aspects of the climate strategy need to be worked out.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EC, said: “The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away.

“It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming so that we live healthier [lives] and make our businesses innovative.”

The EC has promised to present the first European Climate Law within 100 days, to enshrine the commitment to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050 in law.

The deal, which was presented in the same week as world leaders met in Madrid for the UN Climate Change Conference, has met with mixed responses from MEPs.

While the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the European People’s Party (EPP) backed the deal, the Greens called for a 65% reduction of emissions by 2030 rather than the 50-55% proposed, and the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) party expressed concern about the social and economic impact of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

A spokesperson for the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) told RWW: “FEAD sees the EU Green Deal as an ambitious vision for making the economy more circular, safeguarding resources, preserving biodiversity, and fighting climate change.

“[We] highlight three key conditions for success. First, there is a need to significantly increase the demand for recyclates.

“Second, there is a need to facilitate recycling which can be achieved due to strong eco-design rules.

“Third, there is a need for recognising avoided CO2 in the entire waste management chain, including recovery of residual waste.

“FEAD positions itself as a partner for the EU legislator. We have in-depth regulatory expertise combined with technical know-how from the ground that is highly valuable for setting up future rules that are workable and efficient.”

Meanwhile in the UK, Adam Read, external affairs director at Suez Recycling & Recovery UK, said: “The European Green Deal provides clear direction for sustainable growth across all sectors, which will help drive the investment needed to deliver greater circularity.

“In common with the sector deal proposed by the Resources Council, it views the waste and resources sector as a transformation agent with an intrinsic role in the greening of other sectors.

“The question for the UK is whether, post-Brexit, we would look to match this ambition, exceed it, or follow our own path.”

European Parliament will respond to the EC’s proposed plans by adopting a resolution during the plenary session in January 2020.

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