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The European Green Deal as a legal instrument

Updated: Feb 23

The European Union has the sustainable development as its fundamental priority, seeking to reconcile economic efficiency and environmental protection. This multidimensional concept was set as a goal by international protocols in which the European Union participates, culminating in its Kyoto Protocol, which for the first time set out in a binding manner the need to tackle climate change by reducing pollutant emissions, thus aiming to achieve a 2 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperature.

Although the objective was set by this international commitment, the initiative to select the methods and tools was entrusted to the individual parties to the agreement, one of which is the EU. From the outset, the EU has sought to play a leading role at international level in pollution reduction measures using its legislative tools to enforce the framework for action on its Member States. It has typically created the largest carbon market through the directive establishing a emissions trading scheme, while other mechanisms have been made available to the Member States.

Nevertheless, the worsening of the effects of climate change has necessitated the revision of the initial targets for reducing temperatures by 2 degrees by 2030, not only with the Paris Agreement in 2015 but also recently with the establishment of the European Green Deal, which is in line with stricter emission reduction targets while providing the necessary lines of action depending on the sector from which the emissions originate. More specifically, the target was set for emissions to be reduced to at least 50 % by 2030 and then to 55 %.

The operating framework of European climate policy has always been multi-layered and aimed at the gradual transition of industry to the use of low-emission technologies, creating the appropriate financial incentives for polluting companies given the high costs that these technologies have. The European Green Deal followed the same logic in conjunction with the provision of more stringent reductions. The aim is the transition to a clean circular economy combined with the pursuit of economic growth. In addition, the objective includes the preservation of biodiversity by giving this objective a purely environmental dimension.

The stakes of ensuring such protection have been pointed out that it must be done fairly by ensuring conditions of equal enjoyment of such protection for all countries and their inhabitants. The framework for action of this Agreement includes, in addition to the ambitious target of reducing emissions, the way to achieve this, mainly by providing for economic measures for investment and for research into more environmentally friendly technologies. For this reason, the importance of high electricity consumption, whose carbon emission valuation is high, cannot be ignored. Carbon pricing was a fair measure to deal with it even in the form of a tax. European climate policy is fragmented and legislation is mainly targeted at specific areas. Until now, another law protected biodiversity, another provided for the reduction of emissions of industrial origin, another law provided for the use of renewable energy sources. The above practice may have provided more specialization in these different fields, but it created phenomena of overregulation, making it difficult for the recipients of these laws to comply.

The European Green Deal identifies an attempt to bring together in one text the above in addition to tightening up the reduction target, indicating the need for joint action by all actors. The proposal for a European climate law is indicative of the EU's determination. Therefore, through this proposal, the EU's political will to reduce emissions effectively will be sealed by the legal binding nature of a regulatory text.

The measures provided for in the European Green Deal extend beyond large emissions of pollutants and to smaller ones, setting energy targets for lower consumption in buildings, but also to the improvement of agricultural production through the reduction of fertilizers as well as travel. The aim of the above is for the green axis of action to become the main present of the State through green investments, aiming at zero emissions of pollutants and climate neutrality.

Despite the ambitious goals set by the Agreement, the economic crisis plaguing the European Union by dividing countries into countries in the north and south as well as the effects of the current pandemic are obstacles to its effectiveness. The inequalities between EU states and the difficulty this entails in being able to invest in low-emission technologies create a framework of heterogeneity of members, highlighting the multidimensional framework that determines the effectiveness of the Agreement.

At the same time, the realisation that the EU is the world leader in the initiative to tackle climate change is no exaggeration. However, the supranational nature of the problem does not make it possible to establish whether the EU's action in this area is in itself effective, because without the participation in this struggle of all the States, and especially of the most polluting, a reduction is not possible. America's refusal until recently to participate in the Paris Agreement is a negative example of cooperation in the common goal. Nevertheless, after the recent elections in America, the election of Biden marks America's return to the international agreement. In addition, in a sign of goodwill as a consequence of Chinese ancestry from what is known so far of the pandemic virus, China has also pledged to reduce its carbon emissions.

Key steps

· December 2019

Commission presents European Green Deal, committing to climate neutrality by 2050

· March 2020

Commission proposes European Climate Law to write 2050 climate neutrality target into binding legislation

· September 2020

Commission proposes new EU target to reduce net emissions by at least 55% by 2030, and add it to the European Climate Law

· December 2020

European leaders endorse Commission’s proposed target to reduce net emissions by at least 55% by 2030

· April 2021

Political agreement reached on European Climate Law by European Parliament and Member States

· June 2021

European Climate Law enters into force

· July 2021

Commission presents package of proposals to transform our economy, to reach our 2030 climate targets. European Parliament and Member States to negotiate and adopt package of legislation on reaching our 2030 climate targets

· September 2021

New European Bauhaus: new actions and funding

· 2030

EU to deliver a reduction of emissions of at least 55% compared to 1990 levels

· 2050

EU to become climate neutral

The upper key steps are being taken from the following link:

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