Podcast Green Deal summary
Yuliana Nikolova, director of Center for Policy Modernisation whose main mission is to monitor common EU policies.
Why is the Green Deal a deal?
This deal is the result of the Paris Agreement on climate change with which the member states and the EU as a whole committed to implement policies that will confine the global temperature increase. Climate change causes serious changes in our way of life, causes disasters and unpredictable and costly life-saving operations. The European Commission produced a package of proposals in 2019 that implement the commitments and made a step forward because initially the Paris Agreement envisaged a 50% reduction of emissions by 2050 and it added another 5% to that. The Commission made the ambitious announcement that Europe will be the first continent with zero carbon emissions. It is a deal because it requires efforts not only at EU level but also at the national level and all the states must agree to make these efforts. Poland for instance will follow the policies but where it has some considerations against them, it is not going to implement them. Of course, that will have its consequences. Poland is not ready to close its coal mines by 2050 and that has a price because the cost of carbon emissions will start growing since 2026. This cost will be higher for Poland and lower for the rest of the states. Every EU policy is an agreement between the members. IT is not the Commissions that takes decisions, the member states take them, which is why it is called a “deal”. Such as the Common Agricultural Policy, the member states have agreed on the objectives, mechanisms, tasks that this policy will have for the current period. This policy occupies a central place in the Green Deal.
Its importance for Bulgaria
The Green Deal is important for Bulgaria in many ways. The package of initiatives concerns the climate, the circle economy, biodiversity, protection of the environment and sustainability in all policies. The European Commission agreed to offer the member states a review of all policies in line with their sustainability and impact on the achievement of the Green Deal objectives. The situation in Bulgaria is very complicated. For example the commitment to close the coal-based power plants. This commitment was made based on estimates back in 2019 when a 40 % reduction by 2025 seemed achievable. But that was before the COVID crisis and, what is more important, before the war in Ukraine. It turned out the coal power plant emissions increased in 2022, i. e. the production we engaged to decrease actually increased by 37 % compared to 2019. The politicians in Bulgaria have (almost unanimously) agreed to request a discussion of the recovery plan. This commitment is associated with a certain amount of money and a certain aptness – to take care of the people whose jobs or businesses are dependent on the power plants, to adapt to the new conditions and find new employment. The money we will lose because we are about to denounce the commitment. Instead of reduction, what is happening is an increase. But it cannot last long. Bulgaria is becoming less dependent on Russia gas and its energy is not gas-dependent anyway, as is for instance the German one.
The Green Deal is important for Bulgaria because 40 % of the CAP funds are for green investments. One part of CAP wants greening of the policies, another one food security, but also healthier food for the citizens. And also, sustainable agri-business all along. This year the Commission will propose a legislative package for humane treatment of animals and more environmentally friendly stock breeding. The role of the Bulgarian administration and the farmers’ associations will be to protect the national interest. Bulgarian farmers cannot keep saying something is being imposed on them and they do not want it; they should say what is good for Bulgaria, speak out and make it part of the European policy.
Is the Green Deal a law?
It is a package of EU legislative acts. At some point, therefore, the set objectives will become mandatory for us. But we participate in their formulation and mandatory does not mean “penal”.
The Just Transition Mechanism is part of the so-called next generation package, which will assist the economic recovery. It will help the regions and the business adapt to the time when fossil fuels will no longer be in use and the residents of Stara Zagora will breathe cleaner air. Crises happen all the time and those people working in the mines and power plants should switch to a better, more sustainable and cleaner employment. It all depends on the state – it will be a slow and painful process and it must assume its responsibility. In Germany the closing of the mines in some of the richest mining areas took 30 years. But finally people accepted it, with occasional riots. We have already made the commitment and we have 15 years ahead of us. It will be extremely difficult.
Is this all a threat or an opportunity?
I believe it is an opportunity. CAP has set that at least 20% of the food production will be organic in 2030, that was agreed upon. It will be a challenge for Bulgaria to create a market for the organic products. On the other hand, this production is becoming a tradition and the Bulgarian organic products will have a broad market. So, it is both a challenge and an opportunity. The real challenge will be to achieve the objectives fast enough or else others are going to do it, while we are busy complaining.