by Ci Consulta
At the end of June, the European Commission took a bold step towards its ambitious climate neutrality objectives by launching the Just Transition Mechanism. The platform will put €150 billion of fresh money at the disposal of local authorities around the EU to help regions get up to speed on climate and environmental policy.
The plan attempts to bridge the gaps between communities that have clear and advanced pro-climate strategies in place and those that are lagging behind. One crucial area is coal use across the Union. Two-fifths of the regions around the EU, from Spain to Poland, still have active coal-fired infrastructure – an industry that provides jobs to around 240,000 people, more than one in every 200 European citizens.
But emissions, to which coal is a major contributor, does not only affect workers in the industry or regions that host coal plants. Every year, no less than 400,000 people in the EU suffer premature deaths with complications linked to air pollution.
The Just Transition Mechanism will seek to level the scales between all regions in Europe by investing in a new generation of capabilities, jobs, and technology that facilitate a concerted effort towards the EU green reconstruction plan. Local authorities will be able to access funds and favourable loans to support economic diversification, reskilling, stimulate innovation, and steadily shift towards non-polluting activities.
The platform, though, has not come without criticism. Some local governments, such as that in the Belgian region of Flanders, have raised questions about the distribution of funds. Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir argued that regions that have taken the initiative to transition from polluting energy sources years ago will stand to lose.
The European Commission, on the other hand, has defended the approach as the ultimate exercise in EU solidarity and insists that, unless all communities can arrive at an even starting line, the Union as a whole cannot move towards the establishment of a European Climate Law with the required speed and determination.
The law proposes to make the commitments drawn out in the EU Green Deal into a legal obligation, effectively forcing the bloc to trigger the earmarked investment to achieve emissions neutrality by 2050. The €1 trillion package promises to overhaul almost every aspect of the economy from agriculture to construction, and from transportation to energy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently said that the EU’s post-coronavirus plan should be combined with climate protection efforts, using the recovery period as a springboard for firmer action towards the EU Green Deal.
Now that the Germany has assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on July 1, the last one for Merkel before she retires in October next year, the four-term Chancellor will be steadfast in her intention to lay the foundations of the so-called ‘new green growth strategy’ that may yet be her most significant legacy in European project yet.
After decades of campaigning and rhetoric, warning and pledges, the stars seem to be aligning for a European green renaissance.