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Coronavirus Throws EU’s Green Deal Into Disarray

Dave Keating, Forbes

Much remains uncertain as the effects of the Coronavirus ravage economies. But what seems clear is that any assumptions made about transitioning to the green economy have now been rendered obsolete.

[…] The EU’s Green Deal, with its target to completely decarbonize by 2050 proposed earlier this month, has not taken the massive economic and social disruption of Coronavirus into account. Assumptions made just a few weeks ago will now have to be completely revised. There is particular urgency to revise the EU’s medium-term goal of reducing emissions by 40% by 2030, adopted in 2014.

Máximo Miccinilli, Energy Director at the Center on Regulation in Europe (CERRE), says this 2030 strategy is the “most exposed element” of EU climate policy to Coronavirus risks, after the ETS.

The European Commission’s climate plan aims at defining mandatory trajectories over the next three decades.” he says. “There is, however, an urgent need for including in the modelling exercise the implications of a global sanitary-economic crisis of the magnitude of COVID-19.”

He says the Commission must define “new scenarios that include lower industrial outputs, crises in strategic sectors – e.g. aviation, automobile, tourism, etcetera – lower carbon prices and other fundamental, socio-demographic developments which would result from a potential five-year long recession.”

This should be in addition to urgent measures taken to adjust the ETS, he says.

Climate campaigners have argued that economic recovery measures that don’t take the Green Deal into account risk destroying Europe’s chances of meeting the Paris Agreement goals. As the EU and national governments flood the economy with unprecedented bailout funding, much of that funding will go to emissions-intensive sectors like aviation and industry. And politicians that have been sceptical about EU climate action are already saying the outbreak means that efforts to tackle climate change should be suspended, while industry is propped up.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said last week that the EU should “forget about” the Green Deal for now while it focuses on Coronavirus. This was backed by Jan Zahradil, the conservative vice chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, who said the crisis means climate plans should be reconsidered. “No post-virus economy in Europe will be able to handle it, it’s too expensive,” he said on Twitter.

Poland’s Deputy Minister of State Assets Janusz Kowalski said last week the ETS should be shut down entirely to allow an increase in coal power generation to lower power prices.

Other conservative lawmakers have already called on the European Commission to delay or weaken new carbon dioxide emissions standards for cars, to protect the automotive industry.

The industry itself hasn’t yet called for such a suspension, but Eric-Mark Huitema, the director of European automotive industry association ACEA, said last week that the current situation is “the worst crisis ever to impact the automotive industry”.

“With all manufacturing coming to a standstill and the retail network effectively closed, the jobs of some 14 million Europeans are now at stake,” he said.

The idea of such unrestrained bailouts to polluting industries is horrifying climate campaigners, who fear that years of work putting in place a framework to lower European emissions is about to be undone in a matter of weeks. They stress that it doesn’t have to be this way.

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