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Will COVID-19 derail the European Commission Climate Agenda?

Will COVID-19 derail the European Commission Climate Agenda?

With the COVID-19 crisis taking hold all over Europe and the rest of the world, and it understandably becoming the European Commission top priority, there are questions being asked about the European Commission’s ability to deliver on the ambitious climate agenda present in its Work Programme for 2020. Does it have enough bandwidth, or will it be derailed?

With the announcement that the Biodiversity Strategy and the Farm to Fork Strategy, two of its most eagerly anticipated strategies, will be delayed, albeit by only a month, these questions have only intensified over the past few days. A closer look at the details, however, reveals that far from floundering in the face of the crisis, the European Commission remains remarkably focused on its own ambitious climate agenda. That is primarily because the first 100 days of the new von der Leyen Commission was so productive. The von der Leyen Commission was able to launch many ambitious strategies that have laid the foundations for their work in the coming months and years. Thanks to the success of the first 100 day strategy, von der Leyen now has the ability to make fighting the crisis the Commission’s number one priority, whilst continuing to pursue the legislative agenda or other political priorities.

So where did this concept of the first 100 days come from?

Back in July, when von der Leyen was still the nominee for European Commission President and was seeking to shore up her support among the European Parliament groups, she published a document that would serve as her ‘political guidelines’. In this document, von der Leyen would make her first reference to the notion of ‘first 100 days’, a period where she intended to launch many of the most important climate initiatives of her mandate, such as the ambitious European Green Deal. The use of the ‘first 100 days’, popularised in the US as a measurement tool for the early success of a Presidential mandate, was intended to show that the von der Leyen Commission would seek to hit the ground running. So what exactly did the Commission get up to in the first 100 days? Below I set out their main deliverables:

Climate actions taken during first 100 days

While every Commission seeks to hit the ground running when starting a new mandate, the von der Leyen Commission has used its first 100 days wisely. Carefully selecting priorities, undertaking a tremendous amount of preparatory work, reforming the Commission to work more thematically, building cross-party and cross EU political support, all the while launching the processes of its most important climate files at an early stage in her 5 year mandate. If the first 100 days have laid the groundwork for its most important files, what can we expect from the next 100 days? Has the COVID-19 crisis changed any of the thinking from the Commission about the remainder of its work programme? The short answer is no, and below we have identified some of the notable pieces of work planned for just the next 100 days. Although there is some slippage, overall it remains very much on track:

Climate actions expected during the next 100 days

The next 100 days will also see Commission undertake the detailed ‘behind the scenes’ work to turn the strategies and roadmaps launched in the first 100 days into concrete legislative proposals. A look at the European Commission Work Programme for 2020 also shows plenty of further climate legislative action taking place in in the second half of the year, with much of the preparatory work taking place over the next 100 days.

So the evidence so far suggests that the Commission’s work continues, albeit with some slight delays and in different and in more innovative ways. Indeed, only today, Diederik Samsom, Head of Cabinet for Frans Timmermans, confirmed that policies such as the EU Green Deal remain a priority, if not even more important, which will be delivered in a timely manner.

So in conclusion, despite the crisis, all the evidence suggests that thanks to the front loading of its work in its first 100 days, and the resilience of the organisation under von der Leyen’s leadership, the Commission’s climate action is very much alive, and pretty much on track.

LP Brussels
LP Brussels