By Andrea Pérez Ruiz and Kilian Wirthwein Vega
Only a few months ago, the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, now a field hospital, hosted the COP 25 climate summit, whose task was to close the rule book of the Paris Agreement. At that time, an energetic von der Leyen had just taken up her post as President of the European Commission in a difficult context to lead the European Union. The green parties were gaining strength in the European Parliament, which had lost the traditional absolute majority between the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) in the May 2019 elections. This parliamentary fragmentation, the need for a new impetus to the European project in the context of Brexit, and the aim of addressing citizens’ concerns about climate change were important factors in the adoption of the ambitious European Green Deal as the flagship project of Ursula von der Leyen’s new mandate. The current Covid-19 crisis, however, opens up a new set of political and economic uncertainties: decisions taken now could either hamper the Commission’s green agenda or lay the ground for paradigmatic shifts to facilitate the transition to a green economy.
Von der Leyen’s efforts to get the new Commission off to a productive start and to set the tone for the entire legislature have been reflected in the speed with which the Green Deal was proposed (in the first 11 days of her term). In addition, as early as March, the Commission unveiled several of the initiatives arising from this pact. First of all, the European Climate Law, which aims to give force of law to the objective of climate neutrality and which is pending approval by the European Parliament and the Council. Secondly, the new European Industrial Strategy, which aims to help European industry maintain its global competitiveness in the new geopolitical context, while making the transition to climate neutrality and digital leadership. In addition, the New Circular Economy Action Plan has also come to light, which aims to transform product manufacturing methods and give consumers tools to choose sustainable products, thus accelerating the ecological transition. Continue reading