GNDE (Civil Society) ≠ GNE (European Commission) – Vive la différence!: Let’s plant trees for free

According to an old Italian proverb “Sometimes more happens in an hour than in 100 years“. In the same way, nothing happens for a long time on a particular matter and then suddenly a whole lot of things happen one after another.

This is what has happened with the Green New Deal which gathered pace as soon as it was launched and forced the world of politics as well as individuals to take notice of the enviornmental limits that have been reached and surpassed, thanks in part to demonstrations that have taken place around the world. Had it not been for the Coronavirus pandemic, the Green New Deal would probably be the main talking point for discussions in the media as well as in politics.

As promised, we are providing a space here to set out the dynamics of the ongoing debate while giving concrete examples of possible options and solutions.

We are counting on the contributions of our readers, which should be sent to suolo.europa@gmail.com.

GNDE – Civil Society  

We have been asked to provide more information on the GNDE.

The document is quite exhaustive and is based on a small number of fundamental ideas:

  1. a) the three aspects of the crisis – economic, environmental and that of the democratic deficit – must be faced together; b) solutions must be found to the inequalities and imbalances by identifying solutions that favour the most deprived, the weakest and the poorest; c) the demands made by civil society and young people must be listened to and solutions found to the contradictions they have identified.

That agenda consists of three major initiatives. The first is the Green Public Works: an investment programme to kickstart Europe’s equitable green transition. The second is an EU Environmental Union: a regulatory and legal framework to ensure that the European economy transitions quickly and fairly, without transferring carbon costs onto front-line communities. The third and final one is an Environmental Justice Commission: an independent body to research and investigate new standards of ‘environmental justice’ across Europe and among the multinationals operating outside its borders.

We will leave this topic for now, and will return with further information on the three dynamics mentioned above. In the meantime there are various initiatives to inform, illustrate and communicate the content of the GNDE, but also to call for it to be put into action.

GNE – European Commission

Every year since 2013 a group of economists from the EuroMemo Group has analysed the policies of the EU. Their reports are particularly interesting because they lead to reflections on the changes of course that are required.

The 2020 analysis was published in February and it focuses on the Green Deal for Europe. Signed by 220 economists it provides an assessment of: EU macroeconomic policies and climate change; Climate change, urban and agricultural policies; Labour market and social policies (here you find reference to land use); Implications of the digital economy for Europe; Legal obstacles to socio-ecological transition.

The document is short but exhaustive and highly critical:

“Socio-ecological transformation in the medium run, and Green New Deal in the short run, require large regulatory efforts.  Currently  however,  we  see  instead  ample  regulation  that  will  work  to undermine, rather than strengthen, these efforts.”

Furthermore,  “the  EU  has  given  legal  status  of  the  so called  ‘innovation  principle’,  which  is  bound  to  undermine  the  EU  ‘precautionary  principle’  –  a cornerstone  legal  principle  for  the  socio-ecological  transition.”

The document is currently available in English, but other languages will be added soon.

Suggestions for changing behaviour

Let’s plant trees … in our own gardens! This is not a banal suggestion, but a political choice. The idea is that the local authority negotiates the purchase of (fruit or ornamental) trees at an agreed low cost from nurseries and then makes them available free of charge to those with gardens who ask for them.

Those who are given trees agree to plant them and look after them, watering them and pruning them as necessary. In this way the tree is cared for by the citizen who becomes responsible for it to the community. It doesn’t matter if things don’t go well or if the tree is cut down at some point. The action produces regardless an increase in tree coverage at minimal cost and with all the advantages associated with an increase in the number of plants in urban areas. At the same time the local authority reduces the cost of maintaining public green spaces and increases both the residents’ relational wealth and the quality of life of all. The method can also be applied in rural areas: farmers who request trees can plant them along roads, canals and lanes close to their farms.

This experience that benefits everyone is already up and running in the Polesine area, thanks to a project called “Let’s put a smile back on the face of the Paduan plain“. A local authority has decided to invest one euro per resident and negotiated a price of one euro per tree with the regional nursery.