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The European Green Deal: How to turn ambition into action

Annika Hedberg

Date: 04/11/2021
The pressure is on. The climate and ecological crises are accelerating and there is growing recognition that business as usual is not an option. The EU can and should play a major role in addressing the planetary crisis, in enabling and accelerating the transition to a more sustainable world. It can do this by acting as a rule-maker and enforcer; as an economic powerhouse; as a source of significant funding within the EU and beyond, as well as a mobiliser for private financing; as a convening power; as an innovator and developer of new solutions; as a standard-setter; as a major producer and consumer.

The European Green Deal is crystal clear in its ambition. However, as this ambition and its goals are turned into policies and initiatives, the greatest challenge lies in the ‘how’. How to turn the ambition of the European Green Deal into real action and real results?

This paper argues that to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal and leverage impact beyond EU borders as well, there are five fundamental strands of action for the EU and its member states:

  1. Leadership that communicates the urgency for action. Europe needs leaders - be it politicians, policymakers, media, heads of military or other opinion influencers - that communicate clearly the direction of travel and remind the public of the benefits of action as well as the costs of inaction for the economy, society and people.
  2. Aligning member state action with the agreed goals requires political will, ownership of the needed measures and recognising that urgent action is in every nation’s interest. This calls for using every tool in the kit, including EU policies, investments and collective action, to get on the right track. It requires addressing existing incoherencies in the policy and investment framework as well as better enforcement of existing rules.
  3. Bringing business along: The EU needs to help create the right framework conditions for European businesses – big and small - to succeed in the transition and to become a leader in those solutions that are increasingly demanded in- and outside of the EU.
  4. Bringing people along: Reaching the agreed goals requires communicating and showing the benefits that the measures will bring to people; managing the social impact on the most vulnerable in particular; and providing people with the right tools to engage in the transition.
  5. Global action: The EU should lead by example but also collaborate with other major players in addressing the climate and the wider sustainability crises. When the EU speaks and acts as one, it can be more powerful and impactful globally than the sum of its parts.

Read the full paper here.
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