Social justice and the European Green Deal

'A green deal worthy of the name must work for people and planet.'


The magnitude of the challenge posed by the climate crisis is unlike any that has faced humanity.

The survival of our planet as we know it, all its biodiversity and resources that are essential for life are at stake.

Read: Progress for European climate law

Our best chance, indeed our only chance, is collective, radical, far-reaching and transformative action to tackle the roots of the problems that have led to this climate emergency.

Wakeup call

We welcome the desire shown by Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission to make climate action the priority of her presidency.

This realisation would not have been possible without the protests that filled streets across the world calling for an end to the ideological obsession with economic growth and the exploitation of our planet.

This movement’s drive to expose the fossil fuel lobby’s obstruction of climate action, and demand for social justice have been a wakeup call for many in the political mainstream.

The European Green Deal could have been part of this departure from a ‘business as usual’ approach. But despite the fanfare, it has failed to live up to its name.

A Green Deal can only be a social deal: climate transition cannot be done against the people but for the people.

Social deal 

Effective climate action is only possible through system change. Making capitalism just a bit greener will not succeed in halting global warming; it will only delay climate action further.

We need to place people and the sustainability of the environment above profit. We must overhaul an economy fixated on growth and consumerism.

We have to end free trade deals that push communities into poverty and destroy rainforests. We need to replace industrial agriculture with clean, local and sustainable farming.

A green deal worthy of the name must work for people and planet. The Left has launched its policy for a Green and Social New Deal covering 10 vital areas that need leadership from the EU accompanied by a massive, never-before-seen investment plan that leaves no one behind.

It’s not enough to aim for climate neutrality by 2050; scientists warn that this might be too late. We want EU member states to commit to 70 percent emissions reductions by 2030 and negative carbon emissions by 2050.

Climate transition 

As it stands, the European Green Deal is not even compliant with the Paris Agreement, with member states already lagging behind.

The Commission puts a three trillion euro price tag on the European Green Deal but is hazy on the detail of where this money will come from.

Meanwhile, the Commission’s own estimates show that one trillion euros is lost to tax dodging every year in the EU with 12 member states blocking essential tax transparency measures to tackle this theft. The likely result is citizens, again, footing the bill with austerity, hardship, and growing inequality.

A real deal for the people and the planet, inspired by President Roosevelt’s recovery plan after the Great Depression, should focus on investment in sustainable jobs, building energy efficient social housing, promoting local production, combating energy poverty and ensuring affordable and accessible renewable energy for all.

Instead of imposing massive cuts to social and cohesion funds, the Commission should prioritise social policies such as free public transport schemes and a climate bank with zero-interest loans so member states have the funds to invest in climate transition.


The Common Agricultural Policy can no longer pour millions into subsidies for harmful industrial farming.

Instead, it should favour small family farming and promote the development of safe, alternative plant protection methods, animal welfare, organic farming and a fair price for farmers.

This revolution in policy should not stop at Europe’s borders. Europe should engage in fair and just trade relations and replenish global climate funds. 

Despite some positives such as an EU industrial strategy, a renovation wave for housing and a reforestation plan, this European Green Deal reflects corporate interests, with an overt focus on consumer action.

Its 2050 climate neutrality pledge is the bare minimum as demanded by international law and cannot be celebrated as EU leadership.

Conflicts of interest

The plan says nothing about fossil fuels, notably gas - now the dominant fossil fuel in Europe, composed of methane 86 times more dangerous to our planet than CO2.

With Junker’s Commission clocking over 350 meetings with the 200 Brussels lobbyists for the top five oil and gas companies, and a new Commission beset by conflicts of interest scandals and corporate capture, this will be the fight of our lives, for our planet, and for every young person protesting in the streets today.  

The science is clear, there is no other way: we must change the system, not the climate.

These Authors

MEPs Manon Aubry and Martin Schirdewan are co-leaders of the GUE/NGL, the Left group in the European Parliament.