Green New Deal is 'extraordinary' opportunity for Ireland
Ireland stands on the cusp of "extraordinary opportunities" as the EU embarks on the Green New Deal, which will be the biggest historic investment since World War 2 and full of so-called "moonshot" moments change in human history.
That is according to Dr John Bell, the Dublin native driving innovation and research at the European Commission, who was speaking to industry leaders about the €1.8trn revolution into cleaner and greener economies across the bloc.
At the first event in an online six-part lecture series on environmental resilience co-organised by the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Bell was bullish about Ireland's potential role in the Green New Deal.
He said it was akin to shooting into an open goal for Ireland when it came to transitioning into newer practices such as bio-energy and food production.
Ireland would be among the leaders in the likes of non-meat production, the restoration of peat bogs, and innovation in the fishing industry, as the Green New Deal took shape, he said.
The Green New Deal is not a policy aspiration for the EU, Mr Bell said, but rather a constitutional shift that would be for life.
"There will be the largest investment in the history of the EU since the Second World War. The Green Deal was originally presented and remains the EU's growth strategy, but in fact what it becomes is the motor and compass of our recovery. We have the lines and the blueprints and the direction, and now the investment," he said.
If countries in the bloc are to commit to climate neutrality driven by green and digital transitions, the €1.8trn will reboot economies, according to Mr Bell.
There are no retreads, there is no back to business as usual, there is no returning to the assumptions - there is a great big opportunity opening out for us to take out of the ashes of this terrible period of the pandemic and to reimagine and reconstruct and restore the Europe that we would like to see.
Science can no longer be a mere observer, but must be an actor in driving change, he said.
"We have what we call European Green Deal missions: they are four moonshot or earthshot ideas to radically mobilise breakthroughs," he said.
They include preparing Europe for climate disruptions such as extreme weather and sea-level rise; Mission Starfish restoring ocean water systems by 2030; building 100 climate-neutral cuties by 2030; and restoring 75% of European soils and land.
"These are earthshots where research and innovation is stepping out of its comfort zone and working to try and bring significant change. These are man or woman on the moon moments," Mr Bell said.
The changes that are coming are inescapable, he added.
A €1bn European Green Deal fund for ideas and breakthroughs in the four key areas was launched in September and came about because of young people marching on the streets demanding action, according to Mr Bell.
On biodiversity, science alone telling us what is happening cannot suffice, and must be backed by large-scale strategies on land and sea, he said.