The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal
12 Jan 2021

The climate crisis is not a purely technical or scientific problem – it is a social problem. Our entire way of living – and society with it – must change to make the future more sustainable. Questions about the “right” way to live are receiving increased attention. The burning of fossil fuels, the horrific quantities of plastic in our seas, excessive meat consumption and much more besides are destabilising our planet’s ecosystem. To reverse this crisis, we need sensible and forward-looking concepts and strategies. The Green New Deal is a promising concept for initiating this reversal.

Why is a Green New Deal necessary?

The energy crisis in the 1970s triggered an awareness of the finite nature of fossil resources – and the problems associated with them – for the first time. Since coal started being burned at industrial levels, the global temperature has increased by 1.5 °C.

Source: NASA

We can already feel the effects of this temperature increase today. Forest fires in Australia and California have driven thousands of people out of their homes and cost countless animals their lives. The ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef is acutely threatened by increasing levels of pollution in the sea. Icebergs are melting to a degree which is unprecedented and critical. As a result, the demand for change is growing.

Fossil fuels have predominated in the EU until now. Because they are continuously decreasing, the energy crisis is also discussed repeatedly. For many people it is difficult to understand that they have a significant impact on the climate crisis.  But as Friedrich Hundertwasser already said:

„There is no energy crisis. There is only an extravagant squandering of energy. Does nature have an energy crisis? Do the birds, trees, beetles have an energy crisis? Only man imagines that he is in an energy crisis, because he has gone crazy. (…) Human society must again become a waste-free society. For only he who honours his own waste and re-uses it in a waste-free society transforms death into life and has the right to live on this earth. Because he respects the cycle and allows the rebirth of life to occur.“

With the “Fridays for Future” movement, the younger generation shows that it is well aware of the negative effects on the environment, and is trying to take positive action. The children and young people in the movement will be the first generation to personally experience the effects of climate change – and the last generation able to do anything about the catastrophic consequences.

A Green New Deal could help create a flourishing, long-term generation and awareness for a healthy ecosystem.

The European Green New Deal

For some time now in Europe, there has been a demand for a Green New Deal. This refers to new strategies for growth as a transition to an economy which is both competitive and uses resources efficiently. In recent years, multiple versions of a Green New Deal have been developed. Here is a list of some of the objectives the current European Green New Deal seeks to achieve:

Clean, carbon-neutral energy

The most important feature of the action plan concerns a “carbon-neutral” Europe. Carbon-neutrality should be achieved step-by-step by 2050. Greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 50 to 55 per cent by 2030. As fossil fuels are a finite energy resource, in future, these should be replaced by renewable energy sources. A special focus is being placed on extending offshore wind energy infrastructure. This will require different energy sectors to co-operate closely with each other.

Resource-conserving products

Recycled materials make up just 12 per cent of products manufactured by the EU’s industrial sector. The Green New Deal contains strategies for a circular economy and climate-neutral products. Companies are required to manufacture long-lasting, reusable and repairable products. This should enable consumers to consciously choose more sustainable products. Furthermore, a right to repair should be introduced. According to this, the refurbishment of equipment – especially electronic devices – will be an important component of the strategy.

An environment free from hazardous substances

The Green New Deal contains measures to counteract environmental pollution and to protect plants, humans and animals. For example, a zero-pollutant action plan is planned for 2021 – for the ground, air and water – to re-establish the natural functions of surface and groundwater. Essentially, this will deal with the causes of pollution. So, for example, the chemicals strategy aims to regulate chemicals and nano-particles more strictly. A stricter strategy for avoiding primary microplastics, e.g. plastic particles in cosmetic products, is also being considered.

“From the farm to the table”

The new agricultural strategy is striving towards a greener and healthier system of agriculture. The use of chemical pesticides, antibiotics and fertilisers should all be significantly reduced. In this way, the EU hopes to ensure consumers have sustainable and affordable food.

Sustainable mobility

The Green New Deal is planning a reduction of CO2 emissions to 95 g per kilometre by 2021. The development of the electric car plays an important role here. By 2025 there should be one million public charging stations available across Europe. In areas where electrification is hardly practical, the emphasis is on promoting sustainable fuels such as hydrogen or biofuels.

The Green New Deal: a summary

The Green New Deal is a promising step in the right direction. The action plan has the potential to introduce a shift towards a sustainable and resource-conserving economy.

It is too early to make clear statements about the effect these measures will have on the environment. The Green New Deal is not a magic bullet for every problem: many issues will still have to be dealt with directly. However, it does offer us the chance to address the climate crisis.­­

Lisa Neulichedl