European leaders push ‘Green Recovery’ plan for post-Covid economy

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Will the trillions of euros needed to get the EU back on its feet after the Covid-19 fallout consign the bloc’s climate change policies to history, as an expensive luxury, or will the European Green Deal supply the jobs and economic stimulus to bring Europe back to life?

Some 13 EU member state ministers tasked by their voters with combating climate change and protecting the environment have signed an open letter to the European Commission calling for the European Green Deal announced just as the Covid-19 wave broke in the West to be the cornerstone of the fiscal response to the public health crisis.

And today, 79 MEPs, the chief executives of 37 European-headquartered corporations and a bevy of industry and NGO representatives issued their own demands for a “green recovery.”

“If we relaunch the economy in the wrong direction, we will hit the climate crisis wall,” said Pascal Canfin, French MEP and chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee. “We need to unite all the energies for a green recovery.”

Appeal

The latest open-letter appeal, which Canfin helped coordinate, stated: “We call on a global alliance of cross-party political decision-makers; business, and financial leaders; trade unions; NGOs; think-tankers; stakeholders, to support and implement the establishment of Green Recovery Investment Packages acting as accelerators of the transition towards climate neutrality and healthy ecosystems. We, therefore, commit to working together, sharing knowledge, exchanging expertise and creating synergies to deliver the investment decisions we need.”

November’s planned COP26 climate change meeting in Scotland may have been postponed but the 13 environment ministers who joined the green deal lobbying effort said the ambition to raise the EU’s 2030 carbon emission reduction target this year should be maintained.

“We should withstand the temptations of short-term solutions in response to the present crisis that risk locking the EU in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come,” said the ministers in their joint letter. “In that light, we are pleased that the commission is on track to present by September 2020 an impact-assessed plan to raise the EU’s 2030 ambitions and cut greenhouse gas emission by 50-55%, compared to 1990 levels.”

Division

The ministers added their voice to the call to flesh out the policy framework for a European Green Deal Investment Plan and drive implementation.

The arguments that could dog the introduction of such a recovery plan were aptly illustrated by the furore which preceded Thursday’s decision to launch an initial €540 billion Covid-19 support package. As fiscally conservative Germany dug its heels in over demands for the issue of ‘coronabonds’ jointly backed by EU member states to reduce the cost of capital, the Netherlands said the €540 billion should only be spent on losses directly incurred by the coronavirus and should have fiscal strings attached. Those stances caused uproar in France, Italy and Spain and ensured a second round of talks were needed before that first tranche of funding was released – without any coronabonds.

And that was a relatively straightforward funding package, without any green conditions attached.