The ‘European Green Deal’ - A Paradigm Shift? Transformations in the European Union’s Sustainability Meta-Discourse

Publication Date: 
15 June 2022
Taylor and Francis Online
Publication Language: 
Appearing in: 
Political Research Exchange

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.

discourse analysis, environment, European Green Deal, European Union and sustainability