EU leaders ignore environment as they focus on the money

Posted on 19 June 2020

EU leaders barely gave climate and nature a look-in at today’s European Council, focusing instead on how the EUR 1.85 trillion EU budget will be sliced up.
Ignoring the many calls for a truly green recovery, they failed to close the doors on unsustainable investments, delaying the EU’s road to a more resilient, sustainable and climate-neutral economy. 

The vast majority of EU countries have expressed support for a green economic recovery. Despite this, discussions today appear to have mostly stayed around the overall size of the package and who pays what. Despite earlier calls for conditionalities by both France and Germany, as well as the so-called “frugal four” (the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Sweden), no sign of talk or agreement around green conditionalities has come out of the closed-doors meeting. WWF believes that more than simple expressions of support for a green recovery are needed. Concrete changes are necessary to increase the ambition of an otherwise timid Commission proposal.

Ester Asin, WWF European Policy Office director said: 
“Like children in a sweet shop, EU leaders spent today telling each other how to split the goodies and how much solidarity to show, but forgot to embrace the huge opportunities of a green and just recovery. When they meet in July they must take the necessary steps to ensure the recovery trillions help us build a more resilient economy. This requires meaningful targets for sustainable spending to be brought in, and harmful activities kicked out.”

For WWF, there are several key ingredients EU institutions and governments must include in their economic recovery, to make it just and green:
- A minimum environment and climate spending target in the whole package that is significantly higher than the current 25%, aiming for 50%. The spending should be tracked using the EU taxonomy, which identifies sustainable activities.
- A ‘do no harm’ principle applied to the entire package, meaning Member States cannot invest in gas or other fossil fuels, nor in unsustainable activities such as new airports and motorways, or intensive agriculture.
- Full consistency with EU environmental targets (including the soon-to-be increased 2030 climate target and recently adopted 2030 Biodiversity Strategy) and national plans (National Energy and Climate Plans, territorial Just Transition Plans, Operational Programmes). 
- Access to the proposed ‘Recovery and resilience facility’ - that is, EU funds for countries’ national recovery plans - should comply with the above requirements.

EU leaders are to meet again to discuss the recovery package in mid-July. For WWF, organising another European Council soon is critical to get the green recovery underway. EU Member States have already agreed to bail out unsustainable sectors like airlines and car manufacturers to the tune of hundreds of millions. This is despite the fact that vast numbers of citizens, many NGOs and the European Parliament support building back better.

“It’s now time to focus on HOW the recovery money should be spent. Going back to our old destructive model is simply not an option. Let’s use this money to transform Europe’s economies and make them ready for the future!” concluded Ester Asin.

More information:
Angelika Pullen
Communications Director
+32 473 947 966

Sarah Azau
Media Manager
+32 473 573 137
A recipe for a green and just EU economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic
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