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Greening Next-Generation Europe

European political and business leaders have signaled clearly that they understand the urgent need for decarbonization, and have set their boldest and most ambitious targets yet. But the region’s young generation has never been more impatient to see lofty rhetoric and noble intentions translated into real and visible action.

BRUSSELS – The COVID-19 crisis could have killed the climate cause. Instead, the pandemic has reinvigorated it – not least in Europe. Never before have so many of the region’s economy and finance ministers and business leaders realized that decarbonization and the green transition can actually drive, rather than hinder, job creation, infrastructure investment, and industrial innovation. As Europe gears up for a post-pandemic economic recovery, decarbonization is not only essential, but also presents genuine opportunities if we get it right.

One of the most encouraging examples of this new mindset is the European Union’s €750 billion ($884 billion) Next Generation EU recovery fund, which must allocate 37% of the money to climate initiatives, while the disbursement of the remaining 63% will be subject to a “do no significant harm” principle.

Given that the EU and its 27 member states have committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 55% by 2030, and to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, ensuring that political decisions and new investments do not worsen the climate problem is common sense. But it nonetheless marks a new way of thinking and a recognition that climate concerns and emissions reductions must be integrated into a wide range of policies.