The European Union's post-coronavirus recovery plan will not harm the bloc’s climate goals, according to senior officials.
The European commission announced further spending after unveiling a €750bn recovery plan to counteract the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission believes that €150bn in public and private money can be raised in order to fund cleaner industry, greener transport, and the renovation of homes.
The EU is also proposing to more than quadruple the ‘just transition fund’. The €40bn fund will be invested in areas dependent on coal to transition away from fossil fuels and become more reliant on renewable energy.
Coal-producing countries such as Poland, Germany, and Romania all stand to gain the most from the plan. With Poland potentially receiving €8bn in grants, with Germany and Romania receiving €5.2bn and €4.5bn respectively.
The vice-president of the European commission overseeing the European green deal, Frans Timmermans, said that the EU needs to make sure that money isn’t being pumped into fossil-fuel industries.
“For many regions and companies including those relying on coal production and carbon-intensive industrial processes, this economic crisis has raised an existential question,” said Timmermans.
“Do we rebuild what we have before or do we seize the opportunity to restructure and create different and new jobs? In all the actions we are going to take, we apply the ‘do no harm’ principle so you can’t have investment that takes us in a different direction.”
Environmental campaigners said that the recovery plan does not have adequate measures to prevent governments investing funds on carbon-intensive industries.
“It’s right for the EU to act in solidarity injecting billions to resuscitate our economies while emphasising a green recovery,” said director of Friends of the Earth Europe, Jagoda Munic.
“But it’s ludicrous not to put any conditions on these funds. Our common future will be shaped by how this money is spent, and allowing strings-free handouts to polluting industries, or corporations who dodge tax or have poor labour practices, will not rebuild the sustainable, fair, caring world we need.”
Director of the NGO Transport and Environment, William Todts, said that when it came to what ‘green investment’ actually means, there is ‘a worrying lack of detail’.
“This plan leaves the door wide open for polluting engines and even aeroplanes to get stimulus money. That’s completely unacceptable.”
These claims were rejected by the commission. The EU commissioner in charge of distributing funds to less well-off regions, Elisa Ferreira, said: “It is completely clear that the greening of the projects and the objective of the green economy is present throughout the whole management of the funds.”
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