Moment of Truth for the Green New Deal: Can it survive in a post-Coronavirus Europe?

By Richard Bousfield
Photo by Calvin Hanson on Unsplash

On April 9th, 11 countries signed a letter arguing that the Green New Deal must be central to the post- Coronavirus economic recovery. By the 17th April, this number had increased to 17, with most notably France and Germany adding their names to the list. Currently, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Romania have yet to sign.

The €1 Trillion set aside for the Green New Deal was not agreed in a context of global recession, nor was it calculated with knowledge that a €540 billion economic recovery package would be required. Furthermore, public health experts and virologists are unclear as to whether we must contend with a series of Coronavirus waves. The prospect of repeat recovery packages is a frightening one for the EU and each wave will increasingly affect the survival of the Deal.

The sheer amount of struggling businesses and the ever growing number of unemployed surely warrants another look at numbers and strategies. An already struggling EU (with Germany being one of the strongest EU countries in 2019 flirting with recession), may at this point hope to develop an exit strategy from economic downturn that both protects struggling European citizens and the Deal’s future. With a substantial amount of creative thinking, this might very well be possible.

Chances are high that the crisis will offer great opportunities to reconsider the way we operate both on an individual and a business level. The disruption brought on by the Virus has demonstrated the sudden and profoundly positive environmental effects created by reduced travel. With foresight that such economic shocks can and will occur in the future, now is the time to look toward the businesses that are already adapting their processes by relocating activities online, making their supply chains (customers, suppliers and employees) more efficient and sourcing closer to home. So while this is evidently a difficult time for the EU, and although the virus will force the EU’s hand, the hand being forced may well be the hand that was to be played anyway. 

It is clear that external shocks such as the one that we are experiencing now will become increasingly prevalent in the future, particularly as the effects of a polluted and overcrowded planet become more pronounced. As a transformational and overarching agreement, the Green Deal was designed to create resilience in the face of a changing world. A prerequisite for the Deal’s success therefore is its own robustness in the face of the unexpected change triggered by Covid-19. This moment should be viewed as the first hurdle on a journey toward a resilient European society and economy. For their own sake, let’s hope EU Officials this time don’t miss the opportunities laying ahead.