Green groups want 21 industries on 'polluters list' as EU leaders agree recovery plan

Europe’s main environmental campaign groups have written to EU leaders and key MEPs asking them to blacklist 21 industrial sectors from receiving financial support from the new post-coronavirus recovery fund. The letter came as governments were negotiating a €750 billion stimulus package with large sums earmarked for green investments but insufficient rules to ensure cash does not support polluting industries.

The letter is in the name of 54 million members of the 10 NGOs and 1.3 million citizens who have called for a ‘green and just recovery’. T&E says without an exclusion list of the most polluting industries, the green recovery will not happen.

With Europe facing a massive hit to its economy due to Covid-19, the European Commission is proposing to borrow €750 billion on financial markets and to establish a Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), of which €560 billion of the total will be distributed to member states.

After four days of intense negotiations, EU governments agreed to boost the budget of the RRF to €672.5 billion. Furthermore, they set a target of 30% of the RRF to be spent on meeting the EU’s climate targets and called for all EU expenditure to be consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. 

However, the governments failed to define any safeguards to ensure a green recovery. This is concerning as the RRF regulation proposal makes optional many of the ‘conditions’ that national recovery plans will have to meet to qualify for RRF money. This has created fears that the money could be used to invest in fossil fuels, obsolete technologies and environmental degradation, and risk the EU missing its Paris climate accord target.

T&E’s executive director, William Todts, said: ‘We cannot accept the paradox that something called 'Next Generation EU' invests 70% of its funds in an older generation’s economy while asking young Europeans to foot the bill. Our fight must continue. Surely the European Parliament will amend this historic plan and make it fit for the future.’

The same fears prompted the Green 10 group of environmental NGOs to write to the Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, EU national ambassadors and key MEPs, calling for recovery funds to be channelled into a greener and healthier economy, not to prop up polluters.

In particular they call for a ‘polluters list’ of 21 industries that should be excluded from receiving money from the RRF. The industries include fossil fuels, airport and motorway expansion, fossil fuel cars and trucks, diesel and gas-powered ships, chemicals (except safe, sustainable chemicals), textiles (unless sustainable and ethical), livestock farming (unless organic), live animal testing (except if it meets strict EU criteria), and logging.

T&E’s director of sustainable finance Luca Bonnacorsi said: ‘The whole point of the recovery plan is to come out of this unprecedented crisis stronger, healthier, and greener. The EU already excludes many of the industries on our blacklist from other funding programmes, but the criteria for the Recovery Fund are so loose that those same polluting industries could qualify for it. For the sake of our health, our economy and our planet, the EU must make sure it does not give public money to the polluters. There must be an exclusion list if there’s to be a green recovery.’

The Commission announced its recovery plan on 27 May. T&E generally welcomed it, but said it was worried about a lack of clarity on what constitutes ‘climate spending’ or ‘sustainable vehicles’, adding that the plan leaves the door wide open for the manufacture of polluting car engines and even aeroplanes to get stimulus money.

On 14 May, the Green 10 launched an appeal for a ‘Green and just Recovery’, which has attracted the support of 160 NGOs and more than 1.3 million people through petitions on WeMove, Sum of Us and Avaaz. The Green10’s letter to Von der Leyen was phrased as being in the name of both environmental NGOs and the 1.3m individuals who have signed the green recovery petition.

The Green10 is made up of the 10 largest environmental networks in Europe, embracing an aggregate of more than 54 million members. They include: T&E, Greenpeace, WWF, BirdLife, Climate Action Network (Europe) and Friends of the Earth.