Environment

Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen is an advocate of the environment. Her commitment to fighting climate change was seen from the very beginning. She announced, before being elected, that she would guide the EU towards a more environmentally-friendly economy, giving a boost to the EU’s previous goals. In her speech for the candidacy of the presidency of the EC, she highlighted that she will propose legislation to reduce CO2 emissions by 50-55% by 2030, implement emissions taxes on aviation and maritime transport, as well as a carbon border tax to prevent the import of CO2 and the carbon leakage of industry abroad to escape EU rules.

The European Green Deal

She was consistent with her words, and, on the 12th of December, von der Leyen presented the European Green Deal to the EU leaders. She claimed that “We are determined to tackle climate change and turn it into an opportunity for the European Union”. Her aspirations are clear and consequently, we can assume that more measures regarding environmental protection would be presented by von der Leyen in the future, as it is stated in the annex of the European Green Deal. It does not only imply a greener economy and respect for the environment, but also a boost to the green diplomacy that the EU has been developing the last decades. It is an opportunity to reach a clearly leading position globally in this matter. 

The European Green Deal is a package of cross-cutting measures aimed at preserving the natural environment of the European Union. The European Commission itself defines this Pact as a roadmap to “give the EU a sustainable economy“. For this to be possible, it is necessary to boost efficiency in the consumption of resources, and the restoration of biodiversity through a reduction in pollution. 

In line with the more international aspects of this environmental policy, Ursula von der Leyen has proposed the introduction of tariffs on those carbon imports into the Union’s territory. This is to be expected from an institution that defends multilateral instruments, provided that such an introduction is compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This would consist of a carbon tax at the border, the Border Carbon Tax, which would seek to prevent environmental dumping. The aim is to build an internal market that produces fewer emissions than the current ones, and in turn to provide incentives for products imported into the Union to be less polluting. The European Union has committed to green diplomacy to build itself as a global player in the fight against climate change, and Ursula von der Leyen will follow this path. 

The European Commission, going beyond intentions, will propose a “European Climate Law“. The Commission has also taken steps to ensure that the Member States’ commitment is legally binding and acts as an incentive for investment. This is the proposal for a final Regulation COM/2020/80, announced on 4 March 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is evidence of the negative impact that human activity has on the environment. This is why the European Green Pact is more suitable than ever for building a post-pandemic future. The protection of habitats and respect for the natural environment around us is necessary so that ecosystems are not overburdened. While it is true that the main purpose of this agreement is environmental protection, the Green Pact also involves a very important mobilisation of economic resources so that, at all political levels, there is reconstruction and renewal of the European Union’s economic model. In this way we will have a resilient and sustainable model.

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Claudia María Yáñez Sangil

Research and Analysis Intern