Environmental groups hope to shift momentum for a green recovery from Brussels to EU capital cities as environment ministers prepare to meet next week and discuss the European Commission’s proposal.

Europe’s civil society organisations are calling on national governments to come up with an ambitious proposal for a green recovery fund, which would provide the money needed to rebuild in the wake of Covid-19. The proposal should improve the text put forward by the European Commission last month, the groups said.

In a letter sent to environment and energy ministers this week, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe’s largest network of green groups, highlighted the need to align future funding with existing measures planned to address the ongoing climate and environmental crises.

“This crisis has shown the fragilities of decision-making processes and the risks posed by our current economic model to health and the environment,” writes Jeremy Wates, the EEB’s Secretary General. “We need to invest in the resilience of ecosystems, of social systems, of the economy and of our governance structures to restore and reconcile humanity’s existence within nature,” he said.

The plea comes as leaders at the United Nations and World Health Organisation have also come out in support of a green recovery this week. “Pandemics such as coronavirus are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature, and the world has been ignoring this stark reality for decades,” the institutions told the Guardian this week.

“The coronavirus pandemic is just a fire drill for what is likely to follow from the climate crisis.

Lise Kingo, the executive director of the UN Global Compact

Wanted: More ambition

Environment ministers are due to meet on 23 June 2020 via conference call to discuss a range of issues relating to Europe’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. The call is expected to include a debate on a proposal put forward last month by the European Commission for a green recovery and  new EU budget, which will allocate funds to member states for the next seven years starting in 2021.

The EEB has cautiously welcomed the Commission’s proposal, hailing it as “a major step to demonstrate solidarity and to chart a way forward and invest in both the recovery and resilience of the EU”.

However, like many other NGOs, the EEB warned that the text is not ambitious enough in the more specific commitments that operationalise the overall positive vision, and fails to prevent EU funding being spent in ways that go directly against sustainability principles.

Contentious issues that green groups expect national governments to address include:

  • Plans to continue funding fossil gas infrastructure which conflict with commitments agreed under the Paris Agreement
  • Failure to explicitly earmark EU funding for direct investment in nature, with the exception of a commitment to mobilise €10 billion for 10 years
  • Plans to continue and perhaps even increase funding intensive and unsustainable farming

A more detailed assessment is available in the letter that the EEB sent to ministers on behalf of its large network.

Heads of state are due to discuss the proposal in July. Once governments reach a common position, they will begin the three-way negotiations with the Commission and Parliament before a compromise is agreed by the end of the year.

Nineteen governments – including the so-called ‘Frugal Four’ of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden – have backed a statement calling for the European Green Deal to be made central to the EU’s Covid-19 recovery plans

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