Did you know that my day job is being a Pol Sci student?
When I’m studying and researching green policies, I can’t even tell you the times I come across politicians and lobbyists using concepts like ecological transition or sustainable development as filler words. This frustrates me to no end, but I also learn about amazing policies with huge potential and political movements that truly care.
For example, green deals are my favorite topic right now.
If you’re not reading this blog against your will, chances are you’re in favor of green deals. But it’s a complicated topic and we generally don’t know enough about them – other than the fact that they’re great for the environment.
I think learning about green policies and what they really mean for real-life people like you and me is key in the fight against climate change. If we learn about our environmental problems, we can find out solutions, and if we learn about the solutions, we can do something to become part of them.
That’s why I want you to use this post as a little non-intimidating introduction to what green deals are and what they mean for the world. If you want to go into detail, I’ve left you a few of my favorite books on the topic at the end of this post.
After you read this post, you’ll have a clearer idea about what they are and you’ll be able to:
- hold the big guys accountable for their promises and plans.
- align your eco-conscious actions with the bigger picture.
So let’s break this down.
What are green deals?
At this point, most countries and regions in the world have some kind of environmental policy. The US has the Green New Deal and in the EU we have the European Green Deal – we’re talking about these two in a bit.
In a very broad sense, the main goal of these policies is to do something about the climate crisis and introduce environmentally-friendly practices or measures. From there, each country decides which approach to take depending on their options and priorities – from limiting greenhouse gas emissions to offsetting them or investing in renewable energy.
European Green Deal
Its major goal is making Europe climate neutral by 2050 – and on the way reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.
We’re not talking about a law, but a project with a set of policies.
This is cool because it leaves breathing space for the adoption of the measures that may be necessary for different situations and contexts. And the end goal sounds amazing, sure, but this system also lets us focus on the smaller actions of each member state rather than paralyzing us with the huge target of zero emissions.
Instead of panicking and running in circles because the zero-emissions goal sounds unattainable, or instead of procrastinating because 2050 looks toooo far away, we can focus on what our city or region can do: green public transport? You got it. Well-connected bike lanes? Easy peasy.
But it’s also tricky and needs funding and a lot of coordination because the EU has countries with very different backgrounds, and some of them already have a head start in terms of sustainability (compare Denmark with Romania, for example).
The European Green Deal is also wonderfully complex because it tackles many issues across different areas:
- Biodiversity: measures to protect the European ecosystem
- From Farm to Fork: more sustainable food systems
- Sustainable agriculture and rural areas
- Clean energy
- Sustainable and environmentally respectful industry
- Building and renovating: for a cleaner construction sector
- Sustainable mobility: green means of transport
- Eliminating pollution: measures to cut pollution fast and efficiently
- Climate action: making the EU climate neutral by 2050
You can learn more about the European Green Deal here.
The Green New Deal
In the US, after the Great Depression and with Roosevelt as president, the government introduced the New Deal, a plan of social and economic reforms for the regeneration of the American economy.
Now, the Green New Deal wants to follow this idea of systemic change, additionally bringing modern issues to the table like – you guessed it – renewable energy, the ecological transition, and sustainability.
There have been other proposals to introduce policies of this kind before, but what makes this different is the fact that this Deal is supported by a faction of one of the main parties (Democrats), while other times it had been proposed by smaller parties or groups.
Remember that (by the time I write this in March 2021) this is just a proposition, not a binding law or even a project, so there’s still a lot of work to do.
The proposition includes goals like making the country 100% renewable, introducing sustainable means of transportation and helping vulnerable communities.
But this is the best part: green policies are global
The ideal situation would be including all countries in the world and making strides toward sustainability all together.
But that’s way easier said than done: each country has its particularities economically and culturally, some can make more meaningful efforts than others, and not all have climate change as a priority on their agenda.
There was one proposition by the UN for the Global Green New Deal that would work on poverty eradication, economic recovery after the 2008 crisis and environmental protection. But it stayed as a proposition and nothing more.
We also have the SDGs, a road map towards global development in different areas like gender equality, poverty, hunger, protection of the marine ecosystem, reduction of GHG emissions,…
But what’s amazing is that other individual countries, big and small, are following this trend and including their own measures to fight against climate change within their power – anything from massive tree-planting campaigns in Pakistan to public transport going electric in Chinese cities.
Progress over perfection, don’t you think so?
Do they have any real impact?
Look, green deals represent ideal goals. Just at the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals represent the future we hope we’ll get to live.
Sometimes big goals paralyze us and I don’t think we should get stuck on the zero-emissions goal or on deadlines that are half a century away as long as we see steady progress.
Does that mean that we should be less ambitious? Or demand less from our governments? Absolutelty not, we should shoot for the stars and change as much as we can as soon as we can.
We can’t rush a huge systemic change and pray that it’ll work.
Long-lasting change needs a very strong base to be built on, and that’s why acting locally and in specific issues that matter to you can have a huge impact. You can start by talking your local government into creating that bike lane you’ve wanted in your town for years, your action can create a ripple effect, and maybe in a year, someone on the other side of your country might be able to enjoy their own bike lane thanks to you.
Always remember that big goals can be only achieved after conquering thousands of little challenges.
We’ve already settled that I’m a nerd so, in case you’re just like me, here you have some resources to learn about sustainable development, green deals and the technical side of sustainability:
- The Climate Crisis and the Global New Deal by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin
- Winning the Green New Deal edited by Varshini Prakash and Guido Girgenti
- On Fire: the (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein
- Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist by Kate Raworth
- How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: the Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates
- A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal
Not enough? You can also find my favorite books on sustainability in this post.