The €1 trillion European Green Deal: Stuck on the tracks before ever leaving the station?

The 2020s were supposed to be the years in which the EU would brandish its […]

Other Publication


The 2020s were supposed to be the years in which the EU would brandish its green credentials. The European Green Deal was supposed to transform Europe into the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050. Those were the plans before COVID-19 made its way to our shores and upset them.

Instead of ramping up their climate action efforts, the EU and its member states will now have to deal with the consequences of the Great Lockdown: the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and millions of people underemployed or unemployed. According to the ILO, the number of unemployed could skyrocket up to almost 25 million globally. A global economic crisis, massive layoffs, and the future of millions and millions in jeopardy, who could have imagined that the new decade would start in the way the last one ended?

Luckily, governments seem to have learned their lessons from ten years ago. This time, the money being pumped into the economy is not meant to prop up an inflated financial sector. The priority lies somewhere else. States are intervening and subsidising measures to keep people employed (even part time) and cushion the unexpected economic blow. The economic relief measures announced by different member states and the European Commission in response to the global pandemic are truly remarkable. Conservative governments are spending money on programmes and sectors against which they had railed or even taken an axe to. Upending political orthodoxy while proving that functioning welfare states with a strong security net are indispensable. And for the first time ever the Commission triggered the “escape clause”, granting member states the necessary breathing room to save jobs and companies, and support healthcare and people. Astonishing how fast things move once the political will is there!

The relief measures may be expensive, but they are necessary, and no efforts should be spared to help people in these difficult times. Especially not when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable and those at the front lines. The problem is that these unexpected relief measures are happening at a time in which the EU’s budget for the following seven year is being negotiated. It is hard to imagine countries contributing more to the multi-annual financial framework when some of them have already taken measures in immediate fiscal impulse, deferral, and other liquidities or guarantees that amount to between 1.9% and 60.1% of their 2019 GDP. There could hardly have been a worse time for the Commission to step up its environmental leadership.

Despite the disadvantageous circumstances, however, the European Commission should persist and ensure that the €1 trillion European Green Deal it promised becomes a reality. Even if that amount alone is probably insufficient to meet the challenge ahead, we need every cent to slow and ultimately bring the Great Acceleration to a stop. And when you listen to climate activists, in the streets or online, in the global North or South, and young or old, we want to see climate justice now rather than later. Regardless of how much we would like to freeze it in time, climate change will not slow down unless we throw our full weight behind climate action. By any standards we are in a better position to deal with the effects of a warming climate today than future generations will ever be. Unlike them we have a tiny window to act before too many consequences of anthropogenic climate change become irreversible.

To assure the dearly needed financial means to turn Europe into the world’s first climate neutral continent and make the just transition a success, Commission and Parliament should continue to look for new sources of revenue, for member states and EU institutions. Cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance could be such a possibility. Changing tax structures to favour social and environmental-conscious choices can be another option. Or why not set a European-wide tax on the profits of transnational companies, with the aim of moving towards a global minimum of 25%, and earmark the revenue for social- and ecological-friendly investments?

In the meanwhile, national governments and the EU should couple bailouts to carbon intensive sectors to conditions that promote the achievement of the European Green Deal. A short-term threat does not cancel out a long-term one.

My generation and the subsequent ones would certainly be thankful, and I am sure we are not alone.

Elisha Winckel is the Young European Socialists (YES) vice president with the sustainable development portfolio. He is currently pursuing a MSc in – you guessed it – Sustainable Development at the KU Leuven.

Read the article by Elisha Wickel in PDF

Find all related publications

Talking Green in Europe

Lessons on re-framing the public debate on the climate crisis

Just Transition & Revitalisation – A New EU Strategy for Rural Areas

How can EU actions support the revitalisation of rural areas? How can EU institutions put […]

European Industrial Policy: A crucial element of strategic autonomy

European Strategic Autonomy series - Economy & Trade

A macro-development perspective on euro area imbalances

By FEPS and Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD), founded by Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz.
Find all related events
03 - 04/06/2022
Stockholm (Sweden)

Just Transition: The path to a healthy planet for the prosperity of all

Stockholm (Sweden), 3 June 2022 Urgent action is needed to prevent the breakdown of our climate and […]

Policy Measures for a Just Transition

12 May 2022 Ideas for Designing a Structural Transformation to Reduce Inequalities Policy discussions in […]
30 - 31/05/2022
Berlin (Germany) | Online

Day of Progressive Economic Policy 2022

Hybrid Conference, Berlin (Germany), 30-31 May 2022 We are embarking on the frequently invoked “decade […]
Find all related news

FEPS launches ‘Recovery Watch’, a new research project

The National Recovery and Resilience Plans represent the new framework in which member states will identify their […]

Call to participants: Training Days for Social Business

Switzerland, September 3rd 2022

Prof. Stiglitz: NextGenEU was a step forward, but the EU needs more flexibility

The Nobel Laureate in Economics Prof. Joseph E. Stiglitz speak out about EU’s economic governance and fiscal rules […]

FEPS joins the European Alliance for a Just Transition

We are delighted to announce that FEPS joins the European Alliance for a Just Transition […]
Find all related in the media
In the media

Leaders Must Choose a Just Energy Transition and a Social Europe

by Euractiv 30/05/2022

The circular economy and green jobs

by ENCOMPASS 25/05/2022

Da Prodi a Rodrigues, domani al via la ’Terza conferenza sul futuro dell’Europa’

by La Nazione 25/05/2022

Belgians resigned but not yet panicking as prices continue to rise