The ‘European Green Deal’ - A Paradigm Shift? Transformations in the European Union’s Sustainability Meta-Discourse
In December 2019, the European Commission released its strategy for the European Union (EU), the European Green Deal (EGD), which perceives the ‘commitment to tackling climate and environmental-related challenges’ as ‘this generation’s defining task’. It intends to ‘transform [the EU’s] economy and society to put it on a more sustainable path’, and has been hailed for its potential to durably change European societies. This contribution examines if the EGD offers a discursive paradigm shift regarding environmental sustainability. To this end, it performs a critical discourse analysis on the meta-discourse embodied in the EGD and its predecessors, Europe 2020 and the Lisbon Strategy. It finds that the EGD marks a significant discursive break, moving the EU’s meta-discourse from a negligence of environmental sustainability in the 2000s, and the idea that sustainability as an attribute to growth can support a ‘jobs and growth’ agenda during the 2010s, to centre-stage. By empowering pro-environmental forces, it provides unseen overtures towards a paradigm shift of practical consequence for European – and via an example-setting effect – global sustainability policies. The article concludes by explaining the meta-discursive shift and discussing its implications for EU sustainability policies.