BRUSSELS (NYTIMES) - The European Commission introduced on Wednesday (Dec 11) its centrepiece climate strategy that, if approved, would pivot the world's third-biggest polluter to climate-friendly economic policies and nudge coal-reliant nations with payouts worth billions of euros.
Known as the Green Deal, the plan would require many European Union member states to radically change how they operate their economies and find new livelihoods for millions of citizens, risking a continent-wide backlash akin to the yellow vest movement that has riled France.
The strategy paper, feverishly prepared over the past few weeks by the European Commission, the bloc's administrative branch, has been described as a top priority for the next five years and beyond.
The goal was to put down a relatively limited amount of cash - €5 billion to €8 billion (S$7.5 billion to $12 billion) - and use financial instruments to help pay for projects like building wind farms, upgrading railways and teaching employees of coal plants new skills so that they can find other work. The commission hopes the financial instruments will expand the assistance to €100 billion.
"The European Green Deal is as much about cutting emissions as it is about creating jobs," said the European Commission president, Ms Ursula von der Leyen.
It would legally commit all EU nations to cutting emissions from 1990s levels by at least 50 per cent by 2030, up from the current goal of 40 per cent. It also takes as a given that 28 countries would commit to a net-neutral emissions target by 2050 that has so far proven elusive.
Nations that rely on coal - especially the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - have long blocked the European Union from committing to a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
European nations are among history's largest emitters of the planet-warming gases that have already raised global temperatures, and its moves to tamp down emissions are crucial to slowing global warming.
But those moves could also encourage other major polluters - especially China, the world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases - to rein in their own emissions.
Officials gathered in Madrid this week for the annual United Nations climate negotiations were looking for two concrete signals from Brussels in the coming days: a stated commitment to ratchet down to net-zero emissions by 2050 as well as more ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 2030.