Palm oil diesel factories in Europe
  • ‘Next Generation EU’ boldly goes where no EU plan has gone before, but misses ‘green’ final frontier

    The €1.85 trillion recovery plan unveiled by the European Commission today is a historic step forward for the European Union that could spark a green, healthy and just recovery, green group Transport & Environment (T&E) has said. President von der Leyen proposes ‘recovery bonds’ to finance a ‘Next Generation EU’ plan to ensure no one is left behind by stimulus measures. €500 billion of these bonds would be spent as grants on national projects that could help accelerate the green transition. The plan would also give €250 billion in loans for projects like green infrastructure and technologies.

    But the green conditions for which projects can receive funds must be clarified and strengthened, T&E said. The proposal includes a 25% climate spending target and highlights the need for investment in sustainable vehicles and charging stations. But it lacks common definitions for what constitutes “climate spending” or “sustainable vehicles”. Currently, a fossil gas refuelling point would be “climate spending” under one spending programme (CEF) but it would not be defined as such under another (InvestEU).[1] The Commission should clarify that only zero-emissions technologies and infrastructure would be supported.

    William Todts, T&E’s executive director, said: “The Next Generation EU plan boldly goes where the EU has never gone before. But there is a worrying lack of detail on what green investment actually means. Spending big on shared and electric mobility is the right thing to do, but this plan leaves the door wide open for polluting engines and even airplanes to get stimulus money. That’s completely unacceptable.” 

    To date 1.3 million citizens have signed on to a ‘green and just recovery’ appeal. The petition warns against EU and national governments bailing out polluting industries involved in sectors such as gas, oil and coal, chemicals, cars and airlines. Any stimulus investments must be conditional on companies’ alignment with social, environmental and climate objectives.

    The unprecedented public and political pressure to launch an EU green recovery plan is expected to be ratcheted up as EU heads of governments debate the Commission’s proposal at a virtual summit on 18 June.

    William Todts concluded: “The EU’s stimulus plan is a once in a generation opportunity. If we get this right we’ll emerge in a Europe with healthy and livable cities, a cutting-edge automotive industry and millions of new green jobs. But if we blow this chance, we can forget about the Green Deal or winning the global technology race. The stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.”

    Note to editors:

    [1] CEF uses Rio Markers while InvestEU refers to the EU’s taxonomy. (As per the taxonomy technical expert group’s final recommendations. Final criteria to be published before 31 December 2020.)