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European Green Deal

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

European Green Deal

What to study?

For Prelims: Overview and features of Green Deal.

For Mains: Significance and the need for the deal.

Context: On the sidelines of recently concluded annual Madrid Climate talks, the European Union came up with an announcement on additional measures it would on climate change. It is Called the European Green Deal.

 Overview and key features of the European Green Deal:

Climate neutrality: The EU has promised to bring a law, binding on all member countries, to ensure it becomes “climate neutral” by 2050.

  • What is it? Climate neutrality, sometimes also expressed as a state of net-zero emissions, is achieved when a country’s emissions are balanced by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks like forests, while removal involves technologies like carbon capture and storage.

 Increase in 2030 emission reduction target:

  • In its climate action plan declared under the Paris Agreement, the EU was committed to making a 40 per cent reduction in its emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. It is now promising to increase this reduction to at least 50 per cent and work towards 55 per cent.

 Significance of the deal:

EU with 28 member countries are together the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China and the United States. Therefore, the announcement was hailed as a major step forward, even though it needs complementary efforts from other countries to make a significant impact.

Implications and Lessons for other countries:

  • Over the last few months, there had been a growing demand for countries to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. The UN Secretary-General had convened a special meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly session in September to persuade countries to commit to this target. Over 60 countries had agreed to scale up their climate actions, or to the 2050 target, but these were all relatively small emitters. The EU is now the first major emitter to agree to the 2050 climate neutrality target.
  • The EU also happens to be only one among major emitters to retain the 1990 baseline for emission cuts, originally mandated under the Kyoto Protocol for all developed countries. Most other countries have shifted their baselines to 2005 or even later under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

What else is expected from developed regions like EU?

EU has not been fulfilling all its climate obligations. The Kyoto Protocol required the rich and developed countries to provide finance and technology to the developing countries to help them fight climate change. In those respects, there has been little climate money flowing out of the EU, especially for adaptation needs of developing countries, and transfer of new climate-friendly technologies has been mired in patent and ownership complications.

This is the reason why developing countries, like India and China, have been repeatedly raising the issue of unfulfilled obligations of developed countries in the pre-2020 period, that is covered by the Kyoto Protocol.

Concerns and challenges:

The Green Deal is important but inadequate in itself to achieve the emission reductions that scientific assessments say would be required to save the world from catastrophic and irreversible impacts of climate change.

There has been no signal from other big emitters, including large developing countries like China and India, that they were considering immediate scaling up of their climate actions.

  • As long as many international partners do not share the same ambition as the EU, there is a risk of carbon leakage, either because production is transferred from the EU to other countries with lower ambition for emission reduction, or because EU products are replaced by more carbon-intensive imports.
  • If this risk materializes, there will be no reduction in global emissions, and this will frustrate the efforts of EU and its industries to meet the global climate objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Sources: Indian Express.