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Is Europe's Green Deal entering a grey zone?

Is Europe's Green Deal entering a grey zone?
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Julian GOMEZ
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Defended by some, criticised by others, misunderstood by many, Europe's Green Deal on climate change has generated heated debate across the EU in recent months. European elections have intensified the focus on it. What is it and why is it controversial? Euronews Witness's Julian Gomez explores.

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A set of policy initiatives, the Green Deal aims to make the EU carbon neutral and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Its effective implementation is proving challenging in different economic sectors. 

In the Czech Republic, the main concerns are coming from industry. The Czech government wants to reduce greenhouse emissions by 30% by 2030. Some big factories say they are already working on it, but others are struggling.

"[The Green Deal policy] negatively affects our business, especially our competitiveness, because these regulations do not exist outside the EU. It's a question of policy setting. Whether and how Czech and European authorities want the industry to exist at all - or not," said Jaroslav Seifrt, CEO of a SME that produces 50,000 tons of Bohemia glassware annually.

Bohemian glass factory, Czech Republic
Bohemian glass factory, Czech Republiceuronews

Challenges of green transition

Green Deal-associated social costs seem to torment a country that has suffered a steady decline in its industrial tissue.  

Workers fear they will pay a heavy price for the unpreparedness to this green transition, “As an ideal, the Green Deal is fine. If Europe were a separate planet in the Solar System, we would definitely be for it," said Peter Zegzulka, a trade union leader in the steel sector. "But unfortunately, Europe emits roughly 8% of the world's total emissions per year. So, if emissions in Europe were reduced by 50%, then where would the remaining 96% be cut?" 

Steelworks, Czech Republic
Steelworks, Czech Republiceuronews

Czech workers want Green Deal policies that keep production and employment.  For their part, NGOs wonder how it can be implemented in a socially fair way.

Meanwhile, the debate in Ireland is mostly being focused on farming. The government has asked the sector to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 25% by 2030. Farmers fear the only possible way to achieve that goal is by culling their herds.

Gearoid Maher, a farmer in Ireland
Gearoid Maher, a farmer in Irelandeuronews

"Agriculture is seen as an easy target, I suppose it's a lot easier to get rid of cows than to get rid of cars or to get rid of industry", said Gearoid Maher, owner of one of around 135,000 farms scattered around the country.

Phasing out peat in Ireland

Similar fears come from another traditional Irish agricultural activity, turf cutting. Ireland still allows thousands who live near bogs to cut turf on their properties for domestic use as heating. Under pressure from the Green Deal and environmental directives, this tolerance could now end. The European Court of Justice has already condemned Ireland for not sufficiently protecting its peatland ecosystems. Local users fear the end of their tradition.

Turf cutters in Kildare County, Ireland
Turf cutters in Kildare County, Irelandeuronews

Ireland's environmental associations say they empathize with the farming sector's fears, but they argue turning away from the Green Deal is not a real option; efforts just have to be equally shared, they say. "When was the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago. When is the second best time?. Now", said Oisín Coghlan, Chief Executive at Friends of the Earth Ireland. "The sooner we start the transition, the sooner we focus on the transition, the better off we will all be".

Conor Wynne, a turf cutter in Kildare County, Ireland
Conor Wynne, a turf cutter in Kildare County, Irelandeuronews

Striving to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 has turned into a burning political and social debate across the European Union. Beyond the European elections, the Green Deal still has a a long and difficult road ahead.

Click on the video above to watch the episode in full.

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