Bas Eickhout: “We’re not on track”

Day two of the conference saw MEP Bas Eickhout examine the Green Deal and the road to circularity, reflecting on what is going well and what needs to improve. “In all honesty, we still have a long way to go.”

The EU Green Deal is an ambitious programme, aimed at achieving climate-neutrality, complete circularity and zero pollution by 2050. Climate-neutrality gets the most attention of the three, with the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. “That is virtually impossible,” Eickhout said. “We have already reached 1.1 degrees and are currently heading for at least 2.7 degrees. Take into account all the resolutions and we’ll stay just under 2 degrees. In other words, we’re not on track.”

Fit for 55

Come 2050 it will be agriculture that is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, even though the sector will already have been subject to major reductions. All other sectors have to reach net zero by that time. The European Commission’s Fit for 55 plan includes a package of legislation proposals designed to reduce net greenhouse gases emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 2021. This means each sector has to play its full part. “But left to individual sectors, the response is often ‘maybe the other sectors should do something first’,” said Eickhout. “Things become difficult when it comes to actually taking action.”

Money in the wrong places

What isn’t helping matters according to the MEP is that EU money continues to be sent to the wrong places. Gas, for example, is still considered green by the EU – although this narrative is now being disputed, partly thanks to Eickhout himself. “Green investments should be the new norm and we need a taxonomy of non-green activities. If public funds don’t flow the right way, why would you expect any different from private funds?”

Status quo easier for politicians

After his speech, Eickhout was asked whether he, despite his somewhat sombre future expectations, had an optimistic message to share with younger generations. He reiterated that things aren’t looking bright: “Over the past ten years we were in a stable situation in which we would have been able to resolve many of our current issues. We’ve missed that opportunity, and now see the war in Ukraine changing everything. Governments have instantly reverted to their fossil reflex, while that’s exactly the opposite of what we need. The alternative to gas from Russia is LNG from the United States, which, by definition, has an even worse CO2 footprint.” And later: “We have to change radically and that’s not something people like. For politicians it is much easier not to change. Actual change demands a voice from people in the streets.”