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EU chief likens Green New Deal to Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment and includes plan for biodegradable plastics framework.

“Together with the industrial strategy, a new circular economy action plan will aim to help modernise the EU’s economy.”

European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen has responded to calls for climate and environmental action by unveiling plans for a European Green Deal with promises to develop a regulatory framework for biodegradable and bio-based plastics.

The EC’s Green Deal, which was published today (11 December), contains a total of 50 policy measures, including a legally binding target of reducing EU emissions to net zero by 2050, a carbon border tax to prevent companies relocating outside the EU to avoid climate legislation, and a new climate law.

The EC also propose to broaden the scope of the EU emission trading system (ETS) by adding maritime emissions to the sectors already included (power, industry and aviation).

“This is Europe’s man on the moon moment,” Von der Leyen said. “Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet, to reconcile the way we produce and the way we consume with our planet and to make it work for our people.”

The EC also has plans to adopt an EU industrial strategy to address the twin challenge of the green and the digital transformation in March 2020. Together with the industrial strategy, a new circular economy action plan will aim to help modernise the EU’s economy.

Under its new circular economy plan, the EC will develop requirements to ensure that all packaging in the EU market is reusable or recyclable in an economically viable manner by 2030, will develop a regulatory framework for biodegradable and bio-based plastics, and will implement measures on single-use plastics.

While the circular economy action plan will guide the transition of all sectors, action will focus in particular on resource-intensive sectors such as textiles, construction, electronics and plastics. The Commission will follow up on the 2018 plastics strategy focusing, among other things, on measures to tackle intentionally added micro plastics and unintentional releases of plastics, for example from textiles and tyre abrasion.

In addition to this, the circular economy action plan will include a ‘sustainable products’ policy to support the circular design of all products based on a common methodology and principles. It will prioritise reducing and reusing materials before recycling them.

It will also aim to foster new business models and set minimum requirements to prevent environmentally-harmful products from being placed on the EU market. According to the EC, extended producer responsibility will also be strengthened.

Elsewhere, the EC will propose what it describes as the first European ‘Climate Law’ by March 2020. This will enshrine he 2050 climate neutrality objective in legislation. The Climate Law will also ensure that all EU policies contribute to the climate neutrality objective and that “all sectors play their part”, the EC said.

Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “We are in a climate and environmental emergency. The European Green Deal is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model.

“Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens. We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation. Moreover, our responsibility is to make sure that this transition is a just transition, and that nobody is left behind as we deliver the European Green Deal.”

Commenting on the EU’s Green Deal, Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) – Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ groups – said: “This is a significant moment both for the environment and for the EU as Ursula von der Leyen has rightly chosen to make the European Green Deal her Commission’s defining policy.

“While the Green Deal clearly falls short of adequately addressing the challenges posed by the existential crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and toxic pollution, it does promise ‘deeply transformative policies’ in the future and is an important first step by the new Commission, even if the hard work of shaping and delivering those policies is still to come.”

Looking forward, the EC will invite the European Parliament and the European Council to endorse the Commission’s ambition for Europe’s future economy and the environment and to help realise it. The Commission will bring forward the measures announced in the European Green Deal roadmap.

If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: Incoming EU chief confirms date of Green Deal launch.

Read: Bioeconomy policy monitor

Read: Bioplastics to ‘play key role’ in implementation of circular economy and EU environmental directives.

Read: USDA proposes new GM rule.

Read: USDA amends its guidelines for designating bio-based products.

Read: European Commission urges industry to do more to boost recycled plastics market.

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