Von der Leyen's "Green Deal": who foots the bill?

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled a package of measures aimed at making Europe climate neutral by 2050. The plan foresees the EU spending a trillion euros on its 'Green Deal' by 2030 and includes a CO2 tax on imports produced under conditions that don't conform to EU climate standards. Commentators in Northern, Eastern and Central Europe voice their concerns - for very different reasons.

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Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Hopes of countries with nuclear power dashed

The bid to pitch nuclear energy as a "green energy" in the quest for a climate compromise hasn't succeeded, Lidové noviny comments disappointedly:

“If CO2 emissions were as fundamental a priority as is always maintained, classifying emission-free nuclear energy as green would have made sense. But because in practice the Green Deal isn't just about emissions, but also about waste and other things, while nuclear energy hasn't been banned as dirty, it hasn't been given the 'green investment' label either. For the Czech Republic, France and other countries that want to achieve climate neutrality with nuclear power, this is a big disappointment. The message is basically: you can go on building nuclear power plants, but without preferential terms. That smells of an attempt at reeducation.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

Finns anxious about their forest industry

Hopefully, people in Brussels will understand that forests can be managed sustainably, Kauppalehti writes anxiously:

“One sensitive topic for Finland is the question of what the EU Commission's plans are for the forests. Finland is wondering whether the EU really understands that forestry - or in other words the management and commercial exploitation of forests - can be sustainable. In the EU, forests are mainly seen in terms of biodiversity and carbon sinks. The EU's new forestry strategy and the modernisation of legislation mean that the forestry sector is in a state of perpetual uncertainty.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Central Europe shouldn't have to pay twice

Central Europe shouldn't have to pay for the West's accumulated climate debt, demands Magyar Nemzet, which has close ties to the government:

“We're not the ones who are 'heating up the sky': most of our industry - and thus most of our emissions - has disappeared as a result of the controversial privatisation of the early 1990s - to the West's advantage, it must be added. ... We don't want to pay again now like dupes, nor do we want to accept the idea of Hungarian (or Polish) farmers, regions and villages receiving less funding because the EU has set itself the noble and ambitious goal of counteracting global warming.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Still clinging to the ideal of growth

The basic problem with the Green Deal is that it doesn't question the whole paradigm of sustained growth, the taz criticises:

“In fact it's simple: we use too much energy and too many raw materials. And even if the energy is renewable and the raw materials are recycled, that won't change. Because every wind turbine also takes up natural space, every electric car drives on asphalt and even recycled raw materials use up huge amounts of energy in their production. ... If the EU were to implement the measures it has announced in such a narcissistic way, that would be the end of growth. Maybe Brussels knows it and isn't telling anyone. An vain hope.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Doing nothing would be even more expensive

Von der Leyen has taken on a huge challenge, NRC Handelsblad concludes:

“The EU remains highly dependent on the member states for implementation. How difficult it is to persuade citizens, or rather voters, to adopt climate measures was made clear last year in the Netherlands. And back then it was only a matter of announcing a first package of measures. There is no less resistance in other EU countries. And then there are the different interests of the member states. ... The Green Deal shows on all sides that Europe is serious. At the moment, we are still talking about macro-politics. But at the micro level, the measures will have a deep impact. The costs are high in every respect. But as Ursula von der Leyen rightly said: the cost of doing nothing would be even higher.”

Die Presse (AT) /

CO2 import tax finally on the way

Europe's economy will be adequately protected, Die Presse notes with satisfaction:

“Of course if [the Austrian steel company] Voest has to purchase expensive CO2 certificates for its steel, it will be at a disadvantage compared to steel plants in Ukraine which don't have to. And it won't help the global climate if we drive such industries out of Europe. This point is now taken up in the 'Green New Deal' in the form of a CO2 import tax. This tax, which experts have long been calling for, is to act like a tariff on the CO2 emissions of products imported from third countries into the EU. And even if tariffs are to be rejected in principle, they represent the only way to pursue a forward-looking climate policy without ruining our own economy.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

Money will end up in shysters' pockets

Nuclear power advocate Michel Gay voices doubts in Contrepoints about the plans for generous financing of climate rescue projects:

“This shower of public money which is paid by all Europeans in the form of income and excise taxes (fuel, electricity, transport ...) will benefit smart businessmen: namely those who seem most credible in claiming that their services are essential to achieve 'CO2 neutrality by 2050'. ... Will this 1,000 billion euro programme really serve European growth? Or will it discreetly supply cronies and shysters with billions, as is happening with wind turbines? ... The billions in debt are an additional burden on our children's future because they are paying the bill for this 'climate rescue', the financing of which may soon become the scandal of the century.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Make EU's funding policy greener

The focus should be on companies that actively try to attain the goal of climate neutrality, the Financial Times urges:

“Ms von der Leyen's call for investment to be directed towards the Green Deal means that industrial and innovation policies should not be focused on particular companies or sectors. Rather, support should be given to firms in all sectors willing to grow via innovation and transformation towards a green transition. This means changing the 'picking winners' mentality to one that is about 'picking the willing'. Ironically, the UK was leading the way, using such an approach to guide its industrial strategy before it became consumed by Brexit.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Green-tinged protectionism

In Corriere della Sera, economics commentator Federico Fubini explains why the industry is afraid of the Green Deal:

“The EU, which has put Ursula von der Leyen in charge of the Commission, is on the way to post-liberalism. It is less and less opposed to interventionism, more open to protectionist methods - which it disguises as noble intentions - and increasingly willing to tolerate concentrations of so-called 'European champions'. ... This is partly due to the ecological vocation that is taking root in Brussels with the rise of green parties (almost 10 percent in the new European Parliament). ... The green factor results in a new equation: not only will the export industry be less competitive in the initial phase, it will also require more investment. And that is awakening protectionist instincts.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

EU can't afford another failure

The European Commission is also taking a big risk with its Green Deal plans, De Volkskrant warns:

“The climate issue could give Europe new legitimacy. Together, the member states can challenge global issues more effectively than individually. ... The climate issue is mobilising more people than previous large EU projects such as the Lisbon Strategy. ... The goals of the Green Deal are also much more tangible than those of Lisbon. But the European Commission has now committed itself to success. Not only because of the urgent need for climate change, but also because after the Lisbon Strategy it cannot afford another failure. In this respect the Green Deal is as unavoidable as it is risky.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Become a green power through trade

Three French ministers and Pascal Canfin, President of the Environmental Commission of the European Parliament, explain in Le Monde how the EU can make an effective contribution to climate protection:

“For Europe's Green Deal to meet with approval beyond our borders, trade policy must serve the climate. ... Europe is the world's largest trading power. Let us seize this opportunity to resolve that all new trade agreements should now be in compliance with the Paris Agreement and contain legally binding sustainable development clauses. We have what it takes to make Europe a green power, one that sends a message of hope to the COP25, but also and especially to the young people who are acting in the interest of the climate and to all those who are already suffering the consequences of global warming in Europe and the rest of the world.”

Index (HU) /

Why right-wing populists see climate as liability

Right-wing populists see the climate issue as a threat to national sovereignty, Index notes, referring to a study by the think tank adelphi:

“Climate change is a scientifically proven fact but - like the obligation to respect human rights - right-wing populists see the moral and political responsibility it entails as a dictate imposed by external forces: scientific bodies and international organisations telling us to change our consumption habits, our lifestyle and our thinking - or in other words our identity. ... In addition, because of the global nature of the crisis, the national horizon of right-wing populist parties is losing importance.”