Rhetorical commitments to green reform are not backed up by concrete policies, civil society groups tell an informal gathering of environment ministers.

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 is expected to improve the text put forward by the European Commission last month.

In a video conference with environment ministers gathered under the auspices of the German presidency of the EU on Monday, NGO representatives stressed the need to align future funding with existing measures planned to address the ongoing climate and environmental crises.

Johanna Sandahl, president of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, warned ministers that  “crises that were here before the pandemic have not gone away”.

“Climate change, biodiversity loss, the spreading of toxic chemicals, plastic waste filling our oceans, and deforestation and soil erosion continue apace – not to mention the many social problems such as poverty, inequality and human rights violations,” she told ministers during the conference.

Green bailouts

While welcoming the support many political leaders have pledged, Sandahl voiced her concerns over the lack of clear binding conditionality in the current EU proposals under discussion.

As an example, the EEB mentioned the proposed €560-billion Recovery and Resilience Facility. The proposal makes a reference to ‘the twin digital and green transitions’ but, scratching below the surface, the sustainability features of the proposal are largely optional.

Strict conditions on this fund must be put in place, said Sandahl. She reminded ministers that this is public money and it should only be used in the public interest.

“We would like to see an annex with an exclusion list that prevents any of this funding being spent on fossil fuel technologies and infrastructure, and nuclear power. Funding for other activities or sectors, such as chemicals, textiles, agriculture, logging, bioenergy, fisheries and aquaculture, and transport including aviation, should be strictly conditional on respect for environmental sustainability criteria,” she argued.

Environment ministers are expected to contribute to ongoing discussions between governments later this week when heads of state will meet to discuss Commission’s proposal for the recovery fund.

Tomorrow, a coalition of Europe’s largest green groups – including the EEB, Greenpeace, WWF, Transport & Environment and other groups – will hand over a petition, signed by over 1.3 million Europeans, calling for taxpayers’ money to fund a just and green recovery, not polluters.

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