Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

The Guardian view on Europe’s troubled green deal: make the case, not concessions | Editorial
Climate Environment World News

The Guardian view on Europe’s troubled green deal: make the case, not concessions | Editorial

Last month, a survey of public opinion in Germany, France and Poland found that a majority in each country would support more ambitious policies to tackle the climate emergency. The same study also found unexpectedly widespread support for pan-European action linking green goals to other priorities such as economic security. Who knew, at a time when warnings of a popular “green backlash” are rife?

Unfortunately, Europe’s politicians are now on a very different page. Rattled by farmers’ protests – which radical-right parties have swiftly co-opted as a new front in their culture wars – Brussels and national governments have been busily sounding a disorderly, panicked retreat on environmental targets. Since the turn of the year, the U-turns and capitulations have come thick and fast.

In February, the European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced the binning of proposals to halve the use of pesticides in agriculture by 2030. Changes to the common agricultural policy, designed to encourage more sustainable farming practices, have also been scrapped. A reference to reducing non-CO2 emissions in agriculture by 30% was quietly dropped from the 2040 climate roadmap. Most emblematically and most depressingly, the EU’s nature restoration law is now on life support after two years of tortured negotiations and despite a series of compromises. In March, a withdrawal of support from some member states led to what should have been a rubber-stamp vote being pulled at the 11th hour.

This dismal sequence is steadily undermining the status of Europe’s fragile green deal. Abandoning the nature restoration law – which aims to restore 30% of degraded habitats by 2030 – would be terrible news for Europe’s forests, rivers and wetlands. Parking it would also send a disastrous message to the rest of the world, given commitments made little over a year ago at the global biodiversity summit in Montreal. In the medium term, the envisaged restoration targets would enhance long-term food security and the sustainability of agricultural land, as well as contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions and safeguarding biodiversity. For small farmers and rural workers, this direction of travel is crucial to their future survival.

Dispiritingly, such arguments are no longer being prosecuted with sufficient conviction in Brussels and national capitals. Instead, in the context of genuine economic challenges in the wake of Covid and the war in Ukraine, the agribusiness lobby is being allowed to set the parameters and terms of debate. Ahead of European elections in June, at which climate-sceptic radical-right parties are expected to make significant gains, mainstream leaders are sidelining green ambitions in the name of political expediency. Last week, the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk – a former president of the European Council who has previously backed the nature restoration law – insisted that Poland would go its own way “without European coercion”.

Five years ago, Ms von der Leyen described plans to achieve net zero by 2050 as “Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment”, adding that the green deal “is our new growth strategy – it is a strategy for growth that gives more back than it takes away”. Given the right levels of investment, and guarantees of support to those on the frontline of transition, the majority of Europeans remain willing to sign up to the journey. But in the face of political headwinds, leaders need to stop conceding ground and start making the case.

Source: theguardian.com