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The European Green Deal Watch : Accessing Progress on the Ground

A Policy Network for making the best use of the European Green Deal-agenda in order to advance transition policies in Europe.

The network is convened by the Veblen Institute for Economic Reforms and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The project in short

Making the best of the European Green Deal implies exploring opportunities it offers but also its “blind spots” and inconsistencies, and suggesting ways to strengthen its chances to deliver on its promise to get the EU on a credible path towards climate neutrality and a more sustainable economy – see the concept paper for a discussion about the Green Deal and sustainability objectives).

This means in practical terms :

- Convening a cross-European network of experts on sustainability policies, using the country-specific expertise to jointly assess strengths and weaknesses of the Green Deal as the EU continues to advance along the “road map” announces by the Commission in December 2019.
-  Understanding national challenges : taking stock of the political debate, reviewing obstacles and suggesting ways how the Green Deal could be more relevant in specific countries.
-  Involving different policy communities (academia, think tanks, NGOs…) : staging public debates, publishing short policy briefs during the project period.
- Documenting progress : examining case studies of projects or policies put in place as part of the “Green Deal” road map.
- Making recommendations for how to make the best use of the European Green-related agenda on national and European level (in particular how streamline the “do no harm” approach), to make and engaging relevant stakeholders (expert community, civil society actors, policy makers, media…)

Download the Concept Paper

How we organize our work

- Convening workshops with core group members
- Organizing public conferences and round-tables
- Organizing Hearings with external experts and actors involved in implementation processes
- Publishing Policy Briefs/Reports

Core members/participants in the first workshop (December 2021)

- Jens Althoff, Director, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Paris office, France
- Nicolas Berghmans, Senior fellow, Climate and Energy Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales (IDDRI), France
- Beata Cymerman, Head of Energy and Climate Programme, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Warsaw office, Poland
- Juliette de Grandpré, Policy Advisor, Climate and Energy, WWF Deutschland, Germany
- Camille Defard, Reaserch fellow, European Climate and Energy, Institut Jacques Delors Paris office, France
- Mathilde Dupré, Co-director, Institut Veblen, France
- Elisa Giannelli, Senior Policy Advisor, E3G, Belgium/Italy
- Jules Hebert, Program coordinator, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Paris office, France
- Julien Hallak, Program officer, Institut Veblen, France
- Wojtek Kalinowski, Co-director, Institut Veblen, France
- Martin Keim, Head of European Energy Transition Programme, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Brussels office, Belgium
- Daniel Kiewra, Research Fellow, Economist & just transition expert, Poland
- Neil Makaroff ; Head of European affairs, Réseau Action Climat, France
- Audrey Mathieu, Referentin für EU-Klimapolitik, Germanwatch, Germany
-  Zuzanna Nowak, Energy & Climate Analyst, Polish Institute of International Affairs, Poland
- Davide Panzeri, Senior Policy Advisor, Ecco, Italy
- Joanna Maria Stolarek, Director, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Warsaw office, Poland

For more information, contact Wojtek Kalinowski at the Veblen Institute.

The background : can the European Green Deal keep its promises ?

The European “Green Deal” was officially launched in December 2019, by a newly appointed van der Layen Commission with a high level of ambitions in the field of climate change and the energy transition. From the start, the Green Deal was presented as a the new “road map” for the EU towards carbon neutrality by 2050 and, more broadly, towards a more sustainable development for the European economy. The initial Communication from the Commission promised a series of “profoundly transformative” measures and more generally a more coherent approach to sustainability. It also announced a comprehensive package of legislative and regulatory proposals to be launched during the next years.

Almost two years later, and in spite of the Covid-crisis, and the European Green Deal stands still out as the single most ambitious political initiative in Europe in the field of climate action and energy transition. The Veblen Institute gave it a first scrutiny early on in the process, both of the transformative proposals and of financing proposals . And though that scrutiny showed a range of weaknesses and points to be amended, we believe today as we believed then that we must seize upon this initiative as an opportunity to strengthen the political support for the ecological transition, mobilise the European civil society and work to raise the level of ambition.

Soon after the official launch of the Green Deal the EU was struck by the Covid pandemic with a dramatic economic downturn and a series of national and European recovery plans. Contradictions between the short-term and long-term objectives were perhaps unavoidable – in any event, they were not avoided, as illustrated for instance by subsidies without conditionality pouring into aviation or automotive sectors. The Commission claims nevertheless to stay on the course set by the Green Deal and the Council explicitly announced in July 2020 that “An overall climate target of 30% will apply to the total amount of expenditure from the MFF and NGEU and be reflected in appropriate targets in sectoral legislation” Naturally, this commitment may not be sufficient if the remaining 70% continues to support an unsustainable economic model. But the promise 30% remain close scrutiny as for the kind of projects they allow to finance – and more generally how the financing conditions and the impacts the transition projects.

Delayed and blurred by the Covid-crisis as it may be, the Green Deal “legislative train” initially announced by the Commission goes on nevertheless. The new climate and energy targets have been adopted and the Commission’s current work programme, presented by the Commission in July 2021, contains numerous revisions and initiatives linked to the European Green Deal. These actions were summed up in the “Fit for 55” package. The package contains a wide range of proposals to revise the whole EU 2030 climate and energy framework, including the legislation on effort sharing, land use and forestry, renewable energy, energy efficiency, emission standards for new cars and vans, reform of the emissions trading system (ETS), etc.

On the missing side, there’s not much debate about financing the transition beyond the initial “Green Deal Investment plan” and NextGenerationEU . Also, the tools and principles used for policy assessment, coordination and impact analysis (for instance the European semester rules used to assess national budget plans) still wait to be redesigned in a way to put ecological and social objectives at the heart of the evaluation and introduce conditionality principles on ecological grounds (strong principles for green budgeting, etc.). On the economic side, the Commission recently launched a new trade policy communication and consultations about fiscal discipline and budgetary rules, but beyond that the European framework remains very similar.

All in all, our judgment is that the European Green Deal still seems the best political narrative available across the EU for those who try to get our economy on the path towards carbon neutrality and other sustainability objectives. We believe il should be accelerated and strengthen rather than postponed or watered-down, as it commits the EU to linking a range of policies into a coherent long-term vision of social and ecological transformation, and that’s exactly what has been missing in the policy debate.

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