Turning fear into hope: Corona crisis measures to help build a better future

As governments start thinking beyond the Covid-19 crisis, the European Environmental Bureau has published a position paper about how to transform fear into hope.

Marie-Amelie Brun shares her highlights.

“It is time to decide what we value the most, and to share a vision for a better future” the European Environmental Bureau affirms in a recently published position paper about how to respond to the Covid-19 crisis.

The environmental network gathered the thoughts of its members to prepare the document, which provides a message of hope for a future with “stronger communities, greater responsibility, a thriving natural world and genuine economic resilience, with human wellbeing at the heart of our policies”.

Five main points are described in the position paper: Turning fear into hope: Corona crisis measures to help build a better future.

A greenprint for a better future

The EEB calls on the EU to use the European Green Deal (EGD) to relaunch the EU economy in line with sustainable development, while supporting human wellbeing, securing jobs, and moving to sustainable economic activity.

Stimulus packages created to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis must promote climate neutrality, nature restoration, circular economy and zero pollution.

Interventions should be used to create new jobs in different sectors such as “renewables and energy efficiency, the building sector through restoration programmes, through agroecological farming and ecological fishing practices, sustainable industrial production, zero emissions infrastructure, and green chemistry.” 

Such packages should pave the way toward sustainability, and support investments in key policies, such as the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the Zero Pollution Strategy.

Avoid throwing good money after bad

Investments made by the EU must deliver long-term benefits to our society. The EEB reminds leaders that a fair use of taxpayers’ money is essential to the success of the Green Deal and a just transition, but will only be possible if environmental harmful subsidies are stopped and if investments in meaningful initiatives are pushed. 

Initiatives mentioned include calls to accelerate “the development of renewable energy; launch a renovation wave of buildings to make them energy efficient and reduce air pollution from domestic heating; invest in infrastructures for a zero-emissions transport sector, including public transport, cycling paths, shipping, and electricity charging points; support an ambitious strategy for the substitution of toxic chemicals; and legislate for and fund large-scale nature restoration initiative and projects.”

Ensure good governance and democratic accountability

Decisions made at the moment will have repercussions in the decades to come, which means transparency about funding and real engagement is needed in decision making.

Principles of the Aarhus convention, such as access to justice and access to information, are mentioned in the document and the EEB asks for them to be guaranteed, as they are conditions to hold governments accountable for their actions and decisions.

It is essential that governments and the EU don’t give in to lobbying from corporate interests, keen to undermine progress that has been made in delivering environmental protections.

This should go hand-in-hand with the engagement of all sectors of society to ensure inclusive and legitimate decision making. The paper also calls for lessons to be learned from this crisis, to minimise the risks of future threats.

Step up cooperation across borders

The EEB calls for leaders to look at the bigger picture and step up cooperation across borders. They recall that “pandemics, like pollution, do not respect national boundaries” and that the EU, the WHO and the UN must all work together.

European cooperation is particularly important and greater solidarity must be shown within the EU. It is essential that governments demonstrate their commitment to the European project at this time and ensure that the EU has the tools and competences it needs to deliver for citizens everywhere.

The paper calls for the role of Coronabonds, “howsoever named”, to be “carefully studied and the importance of EU solidarity to the European project factored in.” It also asks for other “innovative instruments [to] be considered too, such as debt-for-climate mitigation or debt-for-nature swaps.”

More support to poorer nations, global actions against climate change, biodiversity loss and chemical pollution are some of the recommendations of the environmental group, which also mentions international trade deals and question their impacts.

“The resilience of the world’s ecosystems, human health and Europe’s food supply have been weakened severely under decades of producing where it cheapest and then trading globally. This approach needs fundamental questioning”, while a rethink is needed on how we produce food, and other goods in the EU.

Share a vision for a better future

“A better future where people and nature thrive together” is the EEB’s motto. A formula repeated in this position paper, which shares a hope that we can emerge from the crisis stronger and rebuild a fairer economy and society.

Wellbeing, rather then GDP growth, needs to be put at the heart of EU policies, and the European Union should remember its founding values of freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights.

The EEB’s document is an invitation to look at what is essential for society and what is just.

This article is a slim summary of the full position paper of the EEB. Please read the document for more complete information.