The European Union rolled out a massive, trillion-dollar investment plan Tuesday to deliver on promises to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
The EU would designate one-quarter of its budget to fighting climate change over the next decade. The trillion-dollar price tag would come from a mix of EU and national government funds, as well as investment from the private sector.
It targets the EU’s ambitious goal of ensuring greenhouse emissions reach net zero in 30 years. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who late last year announced that goal — a plan she calls the “Green Deal" — says the investments are for the climate, as well as EU citizens.
"It will be invested in the huge transition ahead of us, which consists of upskilling people in new jobs, clean technologies, green financing, new procedures," she said.
The plan prioritizes investment to help coal-dependent countries like Poland transition to green energy. Poland is the only EU member that has not yet signed onto the Green Deal, which would support scientists, businesses and other players in the energy transition. Some of the financing is seed money aimed at triggering much bigger investment.
States that want to qualify for funding must present proposals on low-emission projects as part of how they plan to restructure their economies to be climate friendlier.
The European commissioner for budget and administration, Johannes Hahn, detailed the investment plan at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
"We have no time to waste if we want to deliver results for the citizens," Hahn said. "Or, again in a nutshell, we provide climate cash in order to avoid a climate crash."
A recent poll shows Europeans fear climate change more than terrorism or losing their jobs.
Still, some EU lawmakers suggest details of the green investment plan are too sketchy. Others believe it should link the funds to deadlines for phasing out coal.
The European Investment Bank, which is mobilizing the chunk of money, announced last year it would end financing for all fossil fuel projects by the end of 2020, and align future financing goals with the Paris climate agreement.
EU lawmakers are expected to hold a non-binding vote Wednesday on the Green Deal. Von der Leyen aims to have climate legislation adopted by March.