European Green Deal: good first steps but more ambition expected


Taking office in December 2019, the new European Commission committed to making climate action its priority by presenting comprehensive measures under a common name “European Green Deal”. In March 2020, the European Commission has released two major proposals for legislations: a Climate Law and a Circular Economy Action Plan.   

Is the Climate Law ambitious enough ? 

The Climate Law offers a positive step forward by setting an ambitious goal of achieving climate-neutrality by 2050. To do so, the European countries will have to accelerate the reduction of their emissions and no new EU policies could be adopted without taking this target into account.

However, Surfrider Europe was extremely disappointed to see that the Climate Law did not contain any mention of the Ocean, despite the role it plays in regulating climate and absorbing CO2 emissions. Yet, if we want to achieve climate neutrality, it is crucial that we protect ocean’s health and resilience.

No mention of fossil fuels in the text came as another surprise. Surfrider Europe is pushing for a EU-wide ban on offshore drilling which poses a serious threat to marine biodiversity, water quality and the life and activities of coastal communities.

Nevertheless, Surfrider Europe looks forward to contributing to the EU Adaptation Strategy which is set to be published further in the year. It is a way to emphasis on protecting marine ecosystems which contribute to storing blue carbon. 

From a linear to a circular economy 

The Circular Action Plan outlines the steps and legislative measures that EU institutions want to take to advance and complete the transition to a fully circular economy, where pollution and waste are prevented. 

The Circular Economy Action Plan is promising in many aspects. Surfrider Europe now calls for more ambition to protect our ocean and coastlines from waste and plastic pollution. 

Strong measures are needed to ensure we use less plastics and that refill, well designed and reusable products can become the norm to reduce our use of resources and the waste we create. The Commission should ensure intentional microplastics use is eliminated with no delay and should adopt needed regulatory measures. Finally, regulatory measures must be adopted in order to prevent microplastic pollution caused by the wear and tear of car tyres or the washing of textiles.

Every year in the EU, up to 300 000 tons of primary microplastics are released into the environment. At global level, eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the ocean annually. Floating on the surface, lining the ocean floor or washed up on the beach, waste and plastic pollution threaten aquatic ecosystems, injure and kill marine species life, and deeply affect the resilience of the ocean and its capacity to face climate change impacts. 

Surfrider Europe therefore expects concrete measures as well as ambitious implementation. No magical solution such as substitution with new materials as they continue to be single use, or the development of technologies can be a pretext to continue polluting. There is no excuse today for not taking the urgent and ambitious measures that changes in consumption require. 

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