EU trumpets Green Deal as its 'man on the moon moment'

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement about the "European Green Deal" at the European Commission in Brussels on Dec 11, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - The European Union's new executive was set to launch a Green Deal policy package to tackle climate change on Wednesday (Dec 11), trumpeting the plan to raise €100 billion (S$150 billion) for the initiative as the bloc's "man on the moon moment".

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen's first major proposal since taking office on Dec 1 will commit the EU to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Her proposal will feed into a discussion on Thursday among leaders of member states, but is likely to run into resistance from coal-dependent Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

"Today is the start of a journey. But this is Europe's man on the moon moment," von der Leyen told journalists before taking her climate pitch to the European Parliament.

"The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will also be very careful in assessing the impact and every single step we're taking," she said.

Global concern about climate change has mounted in recent months after heatwaves, droughts and wildfires that scientists say have been exacerbated by rising temperatures.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has triggered a global youth-led protest movement against world leaders over their perceived inaction on climate change.

At a UN climate summit in Madrid, Thunberg accused political and business leaders on Wednesday of looking for loopholes to polish their image over the fight for the climate.

The EU Green Deal will enshrine the 2050 climate neutrality goal in law, binding member states to adhere to it.

Von der Leyen has pledged to work for a more ambitious 2030 target, to cut emissions by at least 50 per cent of 1990 levels over the next decade. The target now is for a 40 per cent cut.

A key component of von der Leyen's plan is a so-called Just Transition Fund, a mechanism of at least €35 billion that would support "regions most exposed to de-carbonisation challenge", according to an internal document seen by Reuters.

Von der Leyen said the commission wants to mobilise €100 billion worth of investment to help the bloc's economies pay for transition away from fossil fuels.

Separately, in a setback for the bloc's climate ambitions, EU states on Wednesday rejected a deal on a set of rules governing which financial products can be called "green" and"sustainable", an EU official said.

The official said talks with the European Parliament will have to resume in the coming days to reach a deal before the end of the year.

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