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COLUMN: Proposed European Green Deal actions could be relevant to Canada

by Colin Isaacs
EcoLog, 5/15/2020 2:00:00 PM

As the world prepares to move past the lockdown strategy of the COVID-19 pandemic, some activists and political leaders are suggesting that the rebuilt economy should have as an underpinning a much greener framework. The Canadian government has indicated that it may be considering at least a very small step towards such an approach with the announcement that oil and gas companies that wish to take advantage of the new Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) will be required to make a commitment to fight climate change. 

One challenge to the green economy movement is the definition of a green economy, with many proponents using the term to promote their own agenda, often with little understanding of the role that governments play, and do not play, in shaping the economy. If the Canadian government decides to go down the green economy path, it is likely that it will take its guidance from the one major government that has already made a strong green economy commitment.

On December 11, 2019, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union (EU), presented its European Green Deal, which “sets out how to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, boosting the economy, improving people's health and quality of life, caring for nature, and leaving no one behind.”

Although much of the European Green Deal focuses on climate change, the document represents an economic direction that is not just about greenhouse gas emissions. It is also about making the European economy sustainable. Recognizing that some would add “whatever that means”, the European Commission has provided a helpful roadmap of actions that it is including in the European Green Deal.

The roadmap of actions that could have relevance in Canada includes:

  • a European ‘Climate Law’ enshrining a 2050 climate-neutral objective
  • a plan to increase the EU 2030 climate target to at least 50% reduction involving updating of the Emissions Trading System Directive; Effort Sharing Regulation; Land use, land use change and forestry Regulation; Energy Efficiency Directive; Renewable Energy Directive; and CO2 emissions performance standards for cars and vans
  • revision of the Energy Taxation Directive
  • assessment of the final National (i.e., EU member nation) Energy and Climate Plans
  • strategy for smart sector integration
  • a ‘Renovation wave’ initiative for the building sector
  • changes to the Trans-European Network – Energy Regulation
  • offshore wind power
  • Circular Economy Action Plan, including a sustainable products initiative and particular focus on resource-intense sectors such as textiles, construction, electronics and plastics
  • initiatives to stimulate lead markets for climate-neutral and circular products in energy-intensive industrial sectors
  • support for zero carbon steel-making processes
  • legislation on batteries in support of the circular economy
  • legislated reforms to management of waste
  • strategy for sustainable and smart mobility
  • deployment of public recharging and refuelling points as part of alternative fuel infrastructure
  • boosting the production and supply of sustainable alternative fuels for the different transport modes
  • a Directive on Combined Transport
  • Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive
  • initiatives to increase and better manage the capacity of railways and inland waterways
  • more stringent air pollutant emissions standards for combustion-engine vehicles
  • Greening the Common Agricultural Policy/‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy
  • measures, including legislative, to significantly reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides, as well as the use of fertilizers and antibiotics
  • measures to address the main drivers of biodiversity loss
  • measures to support deforestation-free value chains
  • chemicals strategy for sustainability
  • zero pollution action plan for water, air and soil
  • revision of measures to address pollution from large industrial installations
  • mainstreaming sustainability in all EU policies
  • a Just Transition Mechanism, including a Just Transition Fund, and a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan
  • renewed sustainable finance strategy
  • initiatives to screen and benchmark green budgeting practices within governments
  • review of the relevant State aid guidelines, including the environment and energy State aid guidelines
  • align all new Commission initiatives in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal and promote innovation
  • stakeholders to identify and remedy incoherent legislation that reduces the effectiveness in delivering the European Green Deal
  • integration of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals
  • EU to continue to lead the international climate and biodiversity negotiations, further strengthening the international policy framework
  • bilateral efforts to induce partners to act and to ensure comparability of action and policies
  • Green Agenda for the Western Balkans.

That list of actions alone should be enough to keep European governments busy but already some critics are suggesting that it does not go far enough in upending the EU economy.

Even if the Canadian government does not join a similar process, the increase of trade between Canada and Europe arising from the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is likely to ensure that at least some of the effects of the European Green Deal actions are likely to be felt in Canada.

Colin Isaacs is a scientist and analyst with CIAL Group who focuses on sustainable development for business. He was selected by Environment Canada to be the principal author of the waste management chapter in the report The State of Canada’s Environment 1991. Colin can be reached at (416) 410-0432 (phone), (416) 362-5231 (fax), and colin@cialgroup.com (e-mail).

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