European green deal aims for climate neutrality by 2050

Co-ops have a key role to play, says Cooperatives Europe

On 11 December the European Commission revealed its new economic growth strategy, which sets the target for Europe to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

While it does not specifically mention co-operatives, the European Green Deal says Europe’s transition “must be just and inclusive” and “put people first”.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: “The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away. It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming so that we live healthier and make our businesses innovative.

“We can all be involved in the transition and we can all benefit from the opportunities. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.”

Cooperatives Europe, which represents co-ops across the continent, said it welcomed the strong link to citizens. It also supports the strategy’s promise to consider the impact of such measures on all kinds of enterprises in order for nobody to be left behind as well as to avoid additional administrative burden for SMEs, which can include co-operatives.

“It is an opportunity to support innovation in the field where co-operatives offer people-centred and sustainable solutions,” said the organisation in a statement.

The Commission’s communication also states that the clean energy transition should involve and benefit consumers and educate citizens and enterprises on the changes required for a successful transition.

Cooperatives Europe pointed out that local economic members-based actors such as cooperatives can also play a role in educating this process, along with schools and training institutions.

The apex body also commends the European Commission’s pledge to allocate a larger part of its budget to climate-related objectives in its international cooperation and partnership policy, and hopes projects on energy communities and other forms of co-operatives get specific attention.

In terms of the Commission’s commitment to pursuing green finance and investment, Cooperatives Europe warned that this measure should allow all types of enterprises to benefit, including co-operatives. According to the trade body, this measure could be an opportunity for local authorities to partner with community initiatives such as renewable energy co-operatives.

Agnes Mathis, director of Cooperatives Europe, said: “The measures of the communication and the calendar are very ambitious. It is essential to ensure coordination between the related initiatives involving all stakeholders and partners, including co-operatives, which, as natural partners, involve local communities and all sectors in the transition towards a green, sustainable and just economy and society, while putting people first.”

The strategy required the endorsement of the European Parliament and the European Council. Achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets is estimated to require €260bn (£219bn) of additional annual investment, according to the Commission. To help achieve these ambitions the Commission will also present a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, a Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, a new Industrial Strategy and Circular Economy Action Plan, and a Farm to Fork Strategy for sustainable food.

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