European Green Deal must work for International Partnerships

Financing the transition

The Commission’s Communication in December broadened the scope of the European Green Deal to include the EU’s global role. The negotiations on development cooperation in the EU budget, a key element of the European Green Deal for partner countries, continue this week. The challenge is now on for Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen to ensure the European Green Deal delivers for people living in poverty in the Global South, writes Rachel Simon, Climate and Development Policy Coordinator at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

The Finnish Commissioner for International Partnerships has the responsibility both to ensure that all domestic green deal action is coherent with sustainable development in partner countries, and to build International Partnerships with an equitable approach to climate and environmental action at their core.

Climate change and nature loss disproportionately affect those least responsible for causing it, including the world’s poorest, a majority of whom are women. Equity demands that countries with higher historical responsibility and greater capacity to act should do more: addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies demands a significant scaling up of the EU’s domestic ambition, and a dramatic scaling up of support for climate and environmental action in partner countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5°C and the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services show us that urgent action is needed. The next 10 years are crucial.

Luckily delivering support for climate and environmental action in the right way brings additional benefits for people and communities, like clean renewable energy access which leads to better health and well-being, and forest restoration which helps secure natural resources for communities and makes them more resilient.

The urgency to act must never compromise human development. The new Commissioner should ensure that a human rights-based approach, strengthening gender equality, and inclusiveness and participation are at the centre of all climate and environmental action. It also leads to better outcomes. The EU can make the European Green Deal a success by working with NGOs, local communities and indigenous peoples, who can show us how to live sustainably and in respect of nature.

The International Partnerships Commissioner has to kickstart her new role with a bumper year. 2020 should see the finalisation of the new instrument governing development cooperation (the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument) – trialogues continue this week – and the beginning of its programming in partner countries. The EU can show it is translating the Green Deal to its external action by adopting a 50% climate and environment target for the instrument, strong policies to prevent any harmful spending or finance for fossil fuels, and use the programming process to focus support on countries’ NDCs, and strengthening CSO participation.

The EU will also begin work on a new comprehensive strategy with Africa, with a major summit towards the end of the year. Commissioner Urpilainen should ensure the renewed partnership supports the achievement of Agenda 2030 and joint principles of climate and environmental action, which can only be done through a bottom-up approach, and support for the participation of local communities and indigenous peoples. The European Green Deal Communication introduced an initiative to tackle biodiversity loss through the creation of a network of protected areas. ‘NaturAfrica’ should support African governments and local populations to tackle major drivers of biodiversity loss and environmental degradation in a holistic and systematic way, and rights of local communities and indigenous peoples must be at the forefront.

Alongside the development and implementation of EU policies, programmes and strategies with partner countries, the COP26 in the UK and the Biodiversity COP in China will put the EU and its relations with developing countries into the international spotlight. The EU must ensure the needs of marginalised groups and countries in the Global South are at the forefront: this means raising domestic ambition to reduce emissions, and reducing its global footprint; supporting an institutional adoption of loss and damage finance in the UNFCCC negotiations, and scaled-up financial support for mitigation, adaptation, and environmental action.

2020 presents major opportunities for the EU to scale up integrated climate and environmental action which delivers for people in the Global South, across its development cooperation, diplomacy, and multilateral action. The challenge is on for Commissioner Urpilainen to ensure the European Green Deal delivers.


A set of recommendations, undersigned by 14 climate, environment and development NGOs, responds to the European Commission’s Communication (11 December 2019) and sets out guiding principles and policy recommendations for Commissioner Urpilainen, to ensure the European Green Deal delivers for people in the EU’s partner countries, the climate and biodiversity.