The Greener the Deal, the Greener our Future

Artūrs Toms Plešs
Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development
Republic of Latvia

Climate change remains one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Science has been very clear that we must strive to keep the global temperature rise to 1,5 degrees Celsius to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. Although internationally progress was achieved in the context of the Glasgow Climate Pact, much work remains ahead of us to implement the promises we have made in Paris and in Glasgow.

The European Union is steadily moving towards increased climate change mitigation targets for this decade and climate neutrality by 2050, however we must really prove we are serious not only about setting targets, but also about their implementation. In this decade, we need to achieve very rapid reductions of greenhouse gas emissions to truly keep the world within the safe temperature limits. In Latvia we are also ready to do our part.

The European Green Deal and the climate neutrality goal are concepts that have become priority in Europe as well as globally. A European strategy for growth that would entail a green deal for everyone is vital in achieving the goal of climate neutrality by fulfilling green and digital transformation. The transition will need to be just as well, therefore most affected sectors will need to be supported.

Ambitious long-term goals have been already set to limit climate change, increase biodiversity, and move to circular economy; however, swift, and simultaneous societal and economic transformation will be a challenge because all economic sectors will require significant investments and innovation. The development of innovation capable of accelerating economic growth must be one of the priorities of national economies as it is the basis for increasing productivity and value-added products.

In turn, a successful digital transformation, as a prevailing element with improved efficiency and productivity, will significantly contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration, and will help in moving areas such as transport and industry towards climate neutrality.

At the same time, the European Green Deal aims to dedicate resources to those regions and sectors that are most dependent on fossil fuels or carbon-intensive processes and will be hardest hit by the transition to climate neutrality. Our role is to plan these investments on a territorial basis, therefore close cooperation among all sectors and regions is important.

In 2020, Latvia supported the strengthening of the EU climate neutrality target by including it in the European Climate Law, as well as expressing support for raising the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target to at least 55% compared to 1990, while stressing the need to foresee and provide additional EU financial resources to meet the new targets. The EU’s new growth strategy – the European Green Deal – will be very important as the underlining concept of the EU’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The implementation of the goals of the European Green Deal in Latvia will be supported by already adopted documents:  Latvia’s Strategy to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the National Energy and Climate Plan for 2021-2030, Latvian National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change until 2030, Circular Economy Action Plan 2020-2027, River Basin Management Plans up to 2021, Programme of Measures for the Achievement of Good Marine Environmental Status, Air Pollution Reduction Plan 2020-2030. Furthermore, several new documents are under preparation that will support the implementation of the Green Deal objectives in Latvia, and these are: State Waste Management Plan for 2021-2028, Environmental Policy Guidelines 2021-2027.

Simultaneously, important work has been undertaken by the government and different stakeholders to prepare Latvia’s recovery and resilience plan that will ensure financing within the next EU multiannual financial framework period to support transition to climate neutrality.

The changes brought about by the reduction of fossil energy use, the much greater impact of the circular economy, the principle of green procurement, and raising public awareness will change people’s daily consumption habits, create new jobs, and improve well-being and quality of life.

Considering the current geopolitics, moving towards climate neutrality can also be used as an opportunity to increase the energy independence by reducing dependence on fossil fuel imports and switching to local renewable energy resources.

Furthermore, the proposals within the “Fit for 55” package that were published by the European Commission last year will significantly contribute to increased greenhouse gas emission reduction in this decade, especially because the proposals envisage expanding the EU’s emission trading system to buildings and transport sectors and strengthening the existing EU ETS. The proposals will also contribute to broader use of renewables and increased energy efficiency. The implementation of the “Fit for 55” package will speed up the development of low-emission modes of transport and the infrastructure and fuels needed to use them, align tax policies with the objectives of the European Green Deal, implement measures to prevent carbon leakage and introduce instruments to protect and maintain natural carbon sinks.

“Fit for 55” package highlights the European Union’s ambitions and planned action in the areas of climate policy, circular economy, and biodiversity conservation, while promoting economic growth and creating jobs that are consistent with Latvia’s development priorities. As these proposals require far-reaching policies, this year they will continue be negotiated among the key stakeholders prior to adoption and implementation.

The European Green Deal can be the pathway for our recovery and an opportunity for catalytic change which could generate a more and better opportunities for a future that is greener, more digital, and inclusive.

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