Europe’s Green Deal as the new normal

“Climate change and loss of biodiversity are still the biggest threat to our society and planet. It's increasingly clear that everything is connected to our unsustainable model, and that a Green and resilient recovery towards climate neutrality with the Green Deal as its foundation is one of the answers.” Co-Chair of the European Green Party Evelyne Huytebroeck presses for a sustainable, fair Europe built on solidarity which prioritises society’s most vulnerable in the wake of the coronavirus.

Evelyne Huytebroeck
Evelyne Huytebroeck
Evelyne Huytebroeck

It is becoming clearer each day of the coronavirus pandemic that we will not go back to “normality”; normality was exactly what led us to where we are now. 

What has become undeniable may be quite cliché and self-evident: what we do and how we live has an impact whether we like it or not. 

One of the most supported scientific hypotheses link the emergence of the Covid-19 to the ongoing loss of biodiversity and upsetting of the natural environment. The destruction of the environment is partially the consequence of an economic system based on unsustainable models and modes of production. 

The unfolding health emergency – even with the unimaginable efforts made by frontline workers – is another direct consequence of a system that slashes and sacrifices labour and the public sector in the name of immediate profit.

Likewise, the immediate attempts by some governments to attack democratic practices and institutions in the name of security – just one more episode in a sadly long recent history – is evidence of how frail current liberal democracies truly are, especially when there are no reactions of equal strength to any illiberal display of muscles. 

Lastly, and sadly, the shortcomings of an EU weakened by national (and nationalistic) forces – uncoordinated, confused and confusing – are all too visible for those of us who everyday fight and strive for a more united, fair and sustainable Europe, founded on solidarity and mutual cooperation.

The emergency is without any doubt a health one, and the grief over the loss of so many lives is devastating. Yet the crisis is manifold, and is bringing to light the shortcomings and malfunctions on which our society has been resting. Therefore, it is not a normality of “business as usual” to which we should aspire, nor simply to “things as they were before,” but instead to “things as they should be better”. A comprehensive approach is needed for a “recovery and resilience plan” that does not bring us back, but forward. We need a radical shift of paradigm.

We Greens are convinced that this paradigm shift cannot happen unless there is an ambitious Green Deal linked to a global project for the “Future of Europe”. Climate change and loss of biodiversity are still the biggest threat to our society and planet. It's increasingly clear that everything is connected to our unsustainable model, and that a green and resilient recovery towards climate neutrality with the Green Deal as its foundation is one of the answers.

A post Covid-19 society should be founded on sustainability, equality and solidarity, for which its most vulnerable members are a priority. Austerity and hawkish control over public debt will not do. What we advocate for are mechanisms of universal social welfare that will leave no one behind, and massive investments in public sectors such as health, culture, education (which are all dramatically impacted), as well as into research and green innovation. 

Economic sectors, from agriculture to industry, should be rethought in terms of sustainability, re-localisation of necessary goods, shorter production chains, as well as fair working conditions and salaries for everyone. Circular economy and investments in climate-neutral mobility, rail and public transport must be a priority. 

And of course, we will go nowhere unless we shift rapidly to a zero-carbon economy, investing massively in renewables, and promoting less consumption of energy. All of this can create quality employment that cannot be delocalised. And everything should be streamlined into a global approach that takes into account the gender dimension and the rights of marginalised groups.

Not since the Marshall Plan have we witnessed, at least in Europe, such a massive unlocking of trillions of public money both by national governments and by the EU institutions. How and where this money will be allocated is crucial. 

Likewise, it is crucial to guarantee that any investment, whether private or public, should respect both the Paris Agreement and the Green Deal principles, as well as those of tax, social and economic justice. In particular, companies and multinationals that have repeatedly shown disregard for environmental, fiscal and labour regulations cannot be beneficiaries of public money: only virtuous companies should benefit. And, of course, the fundamental role that local entities are playing in facing the daily consequences of the crisis cannot be overstated: they should be involved in all levels of decision-making in managing these colossal funds.

As much as we are convinced that globalisation must be rethought, such a massive shift can only happen in a multilateral society, and the European Union remains a prime example. It is a unique chance to truly claim a leadership role. However, although we always advocate for more Europe, it should be a different one, a Europe that reflects the social values which the Green Deal envisages. Certainly a Europe that employs all its instruments, including financial ones, to ensure that its citizens and member states from the North to the South, the East to the West, are not left alone. A Europe where sharing burdens and responsibility is a way of practicing solidarity, not just preaching it. 

Green parties all over Europe are developing Green Recovery proposals, adapted to their own circumstances. Yet one thing remains clear: we stand united behind our vision for a sustainable, fair Europe built on solidarity, and on this we can speak with one voice. Our slogan is always current: “Let's Act. Together.”