EU Green Week 2020 points to post-pandemic recovery

In a first for Europe, EU Green Week 2020 was held digitally last week, after an opening event held in Lisbon, Portugal.

EU Green Week 2020 was held mostly online in light of Covid-19 restrictions. The event brings world-renowned scientists and policy makers together on an annual basis. An opening ceremony in Lisbon, the designated European Green Capital of 2020, kicked off proceedings. This was followed by several days of engaging seminars available to the public via streaming.

A European Green New Deal was one of the centrepieces of the opening conference for EU Green Week this year. Attendees and the audience at large discussed biodiversity and its impact on the world economy and society. The aforementioned Green New Deal is intended as an environmentally-friendly solution to helping the world economy recover in a post-pandemic era.

Highlights of EU Green Week 2020

The three-day event switched for the remainder of the week towards lengthy talks available to stream online. Day One saw a particularly timely talk, where the 2020 State of Nature Report was unveiled. This report revealed findings of a survey, referring to the poor condition of many protected natural sites in Europe.

On the second day, an impressive array of talks were held. They ranged from topics including the health of forests to measures which could help ensure a strong post-pandemic economic recovery. Our readers will be interested to see that the health of the world’s oceans was also the subject of a talk at EU Green Week.

This comes after we reported last week about an agency using radio-frequency mapping technology to help halt illegal fishing off the coast of the Galápagos Islands.

Europe sets sights on greener future

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, gave a keynote address to conclude the week’s events. The address referred to the major concern about the loss of biodiversity but presented an optimistic solution. In her speech, President von der Leyen highlighted the ambition for Europe to become the first carbon neutral continent by 2050.

COVID-19 may have seemed like the ultimate spanner in the works for the EU’s attempt to achieve this. However, President von der Leyen cited the need to strengthen the EU’s resolve to tackle the issue, despite COVID-19. She clarified, saying the EU’s ‘biodiversity strategy for 2030’ was their antidote to the pandemic.

The strategy is intended to bolster the EU’s efforts to protect the natural environment by the middle of the century, in a way that also delivers jobs of the future. This is a welcome initiative, as joblessness has started to rise across the EU27, to 7.4 per cent of the workforce in August 2020.

There is a clear triple win at stake here: Win for the climate, win for biodiversity, and win for jobs.

For example, the restoration of damaged coastal habitats would create jobs in coastal safety, marine and terrestrial ecology, hydrology, geochemistry, engineering, governance and maintenance.

– Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Pandemic serves as catalyst for change

As President von der Leyen’s speech stated last week, the COVID-19 pandemic is an obstacle, but certainly not a reason for letting the environment take a back seat. If anything, it is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to stimulate nations into action.

One particularly positive piece of news concerning the EU is that it is
already on course to meet emissions targets for 2020. Using 1990 as a benchmark, the 27 member states of the EU have collectively helped the bloc lower its carbon emissions by 23 per cent by 2018. This is better than the 20 per cent reduction target intended for 2020, as originally set out in the Kyoto Protocol.

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