Highlighting the necessity for capitalism and climate action to work together to bring about meaningful progress rather than framing the debate as a choice between one or the other, Jack Harris discusses these two seemingly opposing world views and how they could achieve so much more by acknowledging their common interests through Europe’s Green Deal.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote my first article for Wildmag, ‘Capitalism and Green Politics: Does the problem contain the solution?’. In the months since this was published the climate debate has become more mainstream than ever before and is now a global movement backed by millions of people from all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. The rapidly growing awareness and anger from the global electorate has caused politicians from the left and the right to sit up and take note, with climate policies now a crucial campaigning ground and sustainability targets featuring in hundreds of political manifestos across the world.
One of the most prominent and successful of these campaigns was that of the newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The German’s vision for Europe stood out from her competition by promising a flagship agenda of unprecedented climate reforms, addressing sustainability across all sectors and committing the EU to more ambitious targets than ever before – an agenda marketed as ‘A European Green Deal’.
Ms Von der Leyen’s Commission aims to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, with her Green Deal at centre stage to provide “a package of measures that should enable European citizens and businesses to benefit from sustainable green transition” (European Commission, 2019). Shifting the rhetoric in this way from sustainability or profit to sustainability and profit is the best way to ensure climate action remains a priority for businesses as well as day-to-day citizens such as you and I, and when business cares about something it often follows that politics begins to care as well. Although some climate activists have suggested the plans outlined by the Commission are not ambitious enough, and some businesses claim the Commission’s reform demands are unrealistic, on the whole it appears as though Europe is pulling in the same direction on sustainability for the first time.
Pages upon pages of legislation are expected to be proposed (and hopefully approved) over the next five years targeting all areas of European life including pollution and emissions, sustainable farming, efficient transport, clean energy, sustainable industry, biodiversity, and a new Circular Economy Plan. As well as this, the Commission is equally keen to address less immediately obvious sectors such as the digital economy (ensuring data is stored and transferred as efficiently as possible, reducing tech waste, and using new technologies such as artificial intelligence to transform the way we understand the environment), financial services (promoting investment in sustainable businesses, revolutionising European stock markets, and increasing the efficiency of currency transfers), and healthcare (producing sustainable medicines, innovative medical equipment, and reducing plastic usage).
With the new Commission and its staff now settled into their offices in Brussels, work is well underway to fine-tune the specifics of the Green Deal policy set and – most importantly – convince the European Parliament and all 27 EU member states of their plans. We will have to wait and see whether Europe’s actions can speak as loud as their words, but for now we can certainly take heart from the fact that these ambitious plans are being discussed at all. The EU is the world’s largest trading bloc and third largest economy (after China and the USA); if they are strong enough to make a stand, many others will follow.
Jack Harris is a Politics and International Relations student currently on a work placement year at the British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels. During his placement he has been working closely with EU institutions and extensively researched many policy priorities of the newly elected European Commission, particularly focusing on Green Deal policy, digitalisation, and the UK-EU future relationship.
LinkedIn: Jack Harris
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