European Green Deal targets climate-neutrality, circular business and clean tech by 2050

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

'Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent is the greatest challenge and opportunity of our times,' says Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen (Getty Images)
'Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent is the greatest challenge and opportunity of our times,' says Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen (Getty Images)

Related tags European commission green beauty Sustainability microplastics Plastic circular economy

Leading against single-use plastics, further slashing carbon emissions and building circular business models are some of the key goals outlined in the European Commission’s Green Deal.

Published today, The European Green Deal​ outlines the Commission’s goal to drive Europe towards becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and enshrine climate-neutrality into law.

The European Parliament will hold its first debate on the deal in an extraordinary plenary sitting in Brussels this afternoon with Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and executive vice president for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans both present.

This is Europe's 'man on the moon' moment

Addressing press in Brussels ahead of the plenary, Von der Leyen said: “The European Green Deal is, on the one hand, our vision for a climate-neutral continent in 2050 and it’s, on the other hand, a very dedicated road map to this goal. It’s kind of 50 actions for 2050. Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet; to reconcile the way we produce, the way we produce with our planet; and make it work for our people. Therefore, the European Green Deal is on one hand about cutting emissions but on the other hand about creating jobs and boosting innovation.” 

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen

“…We do not have all the answers yet. Today is the start of a journey, but this is a Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment.”

In her earlier political guidelines​, Von der Leyen wrote: “Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent is the greatest challenge and opportunity of our times. It involves taking decisive action now. We will need to invest in innovation and research, redesign our economy and update our industrial policy.”

Plastics, emissions, clean technologies and a circular economy

Among a host of targets announced, the deal outlines a desire for Europe to lead on the issue of single-use plastics and extend the fight against plastics to microplastics.

“By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. We need to get serious about how we turn the tide. European legislation already applies to the ten most found plastic items on European beaches. I want to open a new front in our fight against plastic waste by tackling microplastics,”​ Von der Leyen wrote in the guidelines.

A microplastic ban is already set to enter into force in 2021​ under an Annex of the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) REACH regulation, with limits on added microplastics particles sized 1-5mm to 0.01% in consumer and professional products of any kind.

The European Green Deal also outlines raised targets on slashing emissions to 55% before 2030 and suggests Europe leads on international negotiations for worldwide emission reductions. Investments in clean technologies and a circular economy action plan also form a central part of the plan.

“We will be a world leader in circular economy and clean technologies. We will work to decarbonise energy-intensive industries,”​ said Von der Leyen’s in her agenda. “Europe is an industrial economy, and for many parts of our Union the local manufacturer, plant or factory is the hub for our communities. This is why I believe that what is good for our planet must be good for our people, our regions and our economy.”

The European Commission has pledged to invest “record amounts in cutting-edge research and innovation”​ – €1 trillion in total across the European Union before 2025 to achieve all goals outlined in its European Green Deal.

A green uprising for beauty and personal care

Valued at €78.6 billion according to retail prices in 2018, Europe’s cosmetics and personal care market is the largest in the world.

Trade association Cosmetics Europe says the European cosmetics industry continues to increase its use of biodegradable, recyclable and reusable packaging; develop more waterless formulations to avoid environmental impact during rinse-off; shift distribution transport from road to rail and from air to sea; and invest in sustainable sourcing and life cycle analysis.

While there remains plenty more to be done, companies like TerraCycle are pushing for circular beauty​ products and big names like The Body Shop​, Unilever​ and L’Oreal​ have advanced efforts around plastics reduction.

Consumer appetite across Europe for sustainable movement

According to consumer research conducted by Kantar Worldpanel this year,​ Western Europe has the highest number of consumers consistently working to reduce plastic waste, with many opting for reusable beauty products or those without plastic packaging entirely.

Research from Euromonitor International​ also points to activism, transparency and frugal living as the top consumer demands across the region, noting brands must consider these issues when developing sustainable business strategies.

The European Green Deal’s objectives are clear and there are plenty of implications for the beauty and personal care industry, providing over-arching goals to work towards.

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