EU Recovery Package: Make or break for the Green Deal?

Posted on 26 May 2020

On 27 May, the European Commission will present its EU Recovery Package, which will include a revised EU budget (MFF) proposal as well as a recovery fund designed at relaunching the EU’s battered economy.

What is happening?


On 27 May, the European Commission will present its EU Recovery Package, which will include a revised  EU budget (MFF) proposal as well as a recovery fund designed at relaunching the EU’s battered economy. 


On the same day, the Commission will also publish its revised Work Programme for 2020. This is likely to announce an assessment of the impact of increasing the EU’s 2030 climate target. 


Why does it matter?


Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had promised to put the European Green Deal at the centre of the EU’s recovery effort. Her proposal this week will determine if Europe can emerge from this crisis firmly on the path to a climate-neutral and resilient economy - or if we will return to the previous polluting and destructive economic model, thereby ignoring the imperative of urgent action on climate change and nature degradation.


A growing chorus of economists, NGOs, citizens, and political and corporate leaders have been calling for the EU to restart its economy by launching the biggest green investment plan the world has ever seen, and to make investments of public money conditional on clear environmental and climate criteria. A couple of weeks ago, the European Parliament also emphasised that all recovery funds need to be fully compatible with the Paris Agreement, EU climate neutrality and biodiversity objectives.


Despite this widespread consensus, most of the almost 2 trillion euros of state aid across the EU has so far lacked green conditions. An urgent message is needed: the Commission’s proposals will put its commitment to the European Green Deal to the test.


What will WWF be looking out for?


WWF has stressed that all EU and national recovery plans must put people’s wellbeing at the heart of the crisis response, deliver social benefits and protect workers’ rights through a ‘just transition for all’. 


WWF has issued the following recommendations for a green and just recovery:

  • The European Green Deal’s “do no harm” principle must apply to 100% of the MFF, recovery investments and state aid; this would exclude all support to any environmentally harmful activities, such as as fossil fuels industries, nuclear energy, new airports and motorways, landfilling and incineration, and unsustainable overfishing, aquaculture and animal farming.
  • At least 50% of the MFF and recovery investments should be channeled into environmentally sustainable activities. This would match similar targets set by the EIB and InvestEU's sustainable infrastructure window, and must support a zero-carbon transition as well as large scale nature restoration, which will help achieve the targets set out in the recent EU Biodiversity Strategy. This is legally and technically feasible.
  • The recently adopted suspension of climate earmarking in the 2014-2020 cohesion policy must be limited to the end of 2020 and any ‘frontloading’ of investments in the 2021-2027 cohesion policy or possible extension of the 2014-2020 cohesion policy must be compatible with the 100% do-no-harm and 50% sustainability targets mentioned above.
  • The use of the EU Taxonomy should be explicitly required in order to track sustainability targets. The credibility of the EU's plan hinges upon the quality of the tools it adopts. The EU Taxonomy is precise, science-based, and aligned with the EU Green Deal objectives, and its focus on economic activities is ideal to develop precise, targeted, project-level support, avoiding any harmful spending which can originate from broad sector-level support. 
On the climate target assessment to be announced in the new work programme, WWF is calling for the target to be increased urgently from 40% emissions reductions by 2030, to 65%, which is what science says is needed to help avoid climate catastrophe. The target increase must take place by September this year, so the EU can lead the way on the global stage ahead of the COP26 climate summit.

“Citizens, NGOs, economists, CEOs and MEPs are united in their call for a green recovery. The von der Leyen Commission must stick to its promises, and use this momentum to accelerate the ecological transition and the path to climate neutrality," said Ester Asin, Director, WWF European Policy Office. "Europe deserves a green and just recovery - only then can we rebuild a more resilient economy, ensure the long-term wellbeing of our societies, and avert the worst consequences of climate change and nature loss. Now is the time to make this happen!”

EU Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen
© European Parliament