“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas” Report- Annual Christmas Lunch 2019
Wednesday 11thDecember, 12:00-14:00
During our Annual Christmas Lunch “I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas” we were delighted to welcome Dr. Joanna Drake, Deputy Director-General of DG ENV. We celebrated the end of the year by looking at the future of the EU with a primary focus on the Green Deal on the day of its publication. The discussion took place in a festive atmosphere, covering a variety of topics such as the Circular Economy Plan, the Single-Use Plastic Directive, Sustainable Finance and Chemicals.
Wednesday 11thDecember was a very important day not only for Europe but for the world as the Green Deal was officially launched. The Green Deal can be described as a gift that keeps on giving or even a tree that keeps on branching out, capturing moreCO2. It is a multi-layered and horizontal approach with the objective of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Green Deal is the Commission’s new growth strategy, meaning it intends to break the existing belief that there is an inherent dichotomy between economic growth and climate action. These are not to be seen as separate power parts but as homogeneous. This deal has been procreated by various Director Generals, it affects most if not all sectors of policy. Moreover, the Commission has the ambition of making it a triple win for the environment, economy and society. Essentially it is founded on the overarching principle of a Europe that strives for more with the people of Europe at the heart of that direction.
Circular Economy Plan
The Circular Economy Plan is a key component of the Green Deal, currently, only 9.1% of the world economy can be considered to be circular and just 12% of the EU economy is circular. Therefore,it is clear that there is a circularity economy gap which needs to be addressed. The Commission plans to do so through the introduction of a proposal in March for a set Circular Economy Plan for the upcoming year. This will act as a means to accelerate the current momentum as well as the focus, which will be on the resource-intensive and high impact sectors. This could include extending the Farm to Fork strategy to the food industry. The new action plan will follow a comprehensive approach whereby it will look to engage stakeholders and consider using smart funding as a means to foster innovation.This strategy will also cover the whole cycle of products therefore actions will range from production to consumption. Circularity is also relevant in a variety of other sectors such as climate and biodiversity. This action plan will be an active contributor to the European ambition of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, as well as help contain biodiversity lose.
In terms of the Plastic Strategy,it is important to look at the wider scope of the impact. The objective is to achieve more sustainable production and consumption of plastic along with plastic waste. Prevention is a key aspect of this strategy. The next phase should be focused on reducing waste generation by looking at design and reuse activity.This creates a huge gateway open for innovation and opportunity. We also need to think about the power in consumers, as they have the ability to take more sustainable purchasing decisions which need to remain affordable. The prevention of waste is an imperative part of achieving these objectives.Despite improvements in the area of construction, we are still consuming more than ever before as the production of waste is still increasing. The response to this crisis is essential requirements. This involves reviewing the Packaging Waste Directive and ensuring that all plastics become reusable or recyclable.When it comes to the Single-Use Plastic Directive necessary implementing acts will be put in place to ensure the effectiveness of the directive across the EU.
Biodiversity can be regarded as the second pillar of the Circularity Action Plan. It is apparent that citizens tend to feel disconnected from this topic as, unlike climate it has less of a direct impact. It should however not be undermined as the rate at which biodiversity is declining is of an unprecedented nature. The priorities and future measures will be highlighted at the CBD convention in China in October 2020. There is a need to develop an EU vision for global biodiversity and to set ambitious commitments to demonstrate that the EU is set to take on a challenge. The Green Deal announces action to ensure that European supply chains will not result in an increase of deforestation.
Chemicals are also a cause for concern, as we have a significant air pollution problem resulting in 24 billion euros of direct health costs per year. The Commission is proposing the sustainable production and use of chemicals. The EU does have the most advanced chemical regulation in the world, however, more incentives are needed to substitute hazardous chemicals and provide a general paradigm shift towards green chemicals. This means having more chemicals that are safe by design as well as having more of a life cycle approach to substances and products whistle also taking care of the competitiveness of European industries. This will also require the Commission to rationalise and simplify the logistic framework to minimise the burden as much as possible. Therefore, the next step involves investing more money at getting to know more, in terms of research and knowledge on the impact of chemicals on health. Doing so will act as a catalyst for the implementation of the Circular Economy Plan. The EU must become a shining example on the world stage in order to set international standards.
Finally, regarding financing the Green Deal, one trillion euros will be made available. This will allow all member states to become part of this transition and thus foster inclusivity. The EU has achieved a lot however it is clear that a lot more needs to be done in terms of investments. In March 2018 the Commission adopted an ambitious plan for financing sustainable growth allowing for the leveraging of private capital. The relationship between the EIB and the Commission is crucial in strengthening climate action. President von der Leyen has proposed a Sustainable European Investment Plan which will be published by mid-January 2020. This will verbalise the allocation of the one trillion-euro investment over the next decade throughout the EU. Regarding taxes, the Commission needs to send the right price incentives, to ensure that different contributors follow the path to circularity. It is clear that EU tax policy remains fragmented as there is no common or holistic vision for an EU tax policy.
To conclude the work ahead is both exciting and challenging, the EU is a breakthrough point of a very profound systemic change. The defining challenge of our time is decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. It is important to understand that the Commission’s vision in isolation will not survive. For this reason, it is imperative for the Commission to win over support from all sectors in order to meaningfully achieve the UN sustainable development goals in the next decade. It is clear that businesses are the Commission’s strategic partners when it comes to materialising the Green Deal. We must recognise that the responsibility to protect and restore the planet is ours. Therefore, the time has come for this political momentum to be turned into action. The Commission looks forward to cooperating with businesses to make the European Green Deal the success of the people.
Deputy Director-General | DG Environment, European Commission
Joanna Drake has been the Deputy Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General (DG) for the environment since March 2016. In this role, she is in charge of the coordination of Resource-efficiency policies and other legal instruments. She also chairs a cross-cutting Task Force spear-heading strategic positions for the DG on (inter-alia) the post-2020 Commission financial framework negotiations, Brexit co-ordination, the urban agenda and the future-proofing of the EU's environmental acquis. By training, Joanna is a doctor of laws from the University of Malta, where she also lectured full time in the Department of European and Comparative Law. She acquired a post-graduate degree in Advanced European Legal Studies from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. She held various legal and management posts in the private and public sector before joining the European Commission as head of the European Commission Representation in Malta in 2005. She also had a key role in the Malta-EU accession negotiations as member of the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee. Between 2010 and 2015 she was director for SME's and Entrepreneurship in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. During her tenure in DG GROW she also led the Commission's Task Force on The Collaborative Economy, New Business Models And SME's.