MEPs raise the pressure on EU recovery green spending rules

Pascal Canfin, a French centrist MEP who chairs the European Parliament's environment committee, is leading the cross-party group of five MEPs. [© European Union 2020 - Source : EP]

A cross-party group of lawmakers in the European Parliament – from the far-left to the centre-right – have penned a joint letter calling for the EU’s proposed €750 billion recovery fund to be closely aligned with the bloc’s climate goals.

The move comes as EU leaders prepare to meet on Friday (17 July) in a bid to broker an agreement on the EU’s proposed €1 trillion budget for the next seven years (2021-2027), as well as the bloc’s €750 billion recovery fund from the coronavirus crisis.

Both the budget and recovery fund will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote of approval once leaders agree to it, giving MEPs an effective right of veto over the proposals.

“We all agree that the EU recovery plan should be enshrined in a very clear narrative: it should be the first recovery plan aligned with the Paris Agreement,” says the letter, sent to EU summit chair Charles Michel on Wednesday (14 July).

In particular, access to the EU recovery fund “shall be linked to member states’ commitment to a national objective of climate neutrality by 2050 and to contribute to achieving the Union’s new 2030 climate targets, which will be updated by the end of the year,” the missive states.

In addition, MEPs insist that all recovery money disbursed to EU member states “should respect the ‘do no significant harm’” principle enshrined in the EU’s green finance taxonomy, the bloc’s rulebook on sustainable finance.

'Do no harm': EU recovery fund has green strings attached

The European Union’s proposed €750 billion fund to help the bloc recover from the coronavirus crisis will have green strings attached, with 25% of all funding set aside for climate action, the European Commission has said.

The letter was signed by five leading MEPs representing a wide majority of political groups in the European Parliament: Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe), Lídia Perreira (European People’s Party), Simona Bonafè (Socialists and Democrats), Bas Eickhout (Greens), and Silvia Modig (European United Left/Nordic Green Left).

EU leaders will try to broker an agreement on both the EU budget and recovery fund when they meet on Friday and Saturday. And although attaching green “conditions” to EU spending is not the hottest issue on the agenda, there is no guarantee the leaders will agree to it either.

At an EU summit last December, Poland was the only country to abstain from an EU-wide goal of reducing emissions to net-zero by 2050, saying it needed more time to evaluate the implications for its economy.

Ahead of the summit, Warsaw raised the pressure, warning it would reject proposals linking the disbursement of EU money to climate goals. “A just transition cannot be based on conditionality but inclusiveness,” a Polish diplomat told EURACTIV.

Green budget rules won’t be the hottest potato at EU summit talks

Plans to reserve 30% of European Union spending for climate objectives will not be the hottest topic on the agenda when EU leaders meet on Friday (17 July). And that may be good news for the climate.

If EU leaders fail to attach green strings to the proposed recovery fund, named ‘Next Generation EU’, that will likely set them on a collision course with Parliament, which appears determined to enforce green rules.

“We want to be sure that the money is really spent on fighting climate change purposes,” said Pieter Liese, a German Christian-Democrat (CDU) who is the environment spokesman for the centre-right EPP, the largest political group in Parliament.

Lídia Pereira, a young Portuguese MEP who chairs the EPP’s youth organisation, is among the five MEPs who co-signed the letter.

“It is very important that ‘Next Generation EU’ does not mean that the young generations inherit a huge amount of debts but that we invest in future proof infrastructure,” Liese said in a statement.

The only political group which is notably absent from the list of signatories is the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which includes hardline nationalist factions such as Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).

“Among other things, we couldn’t agree to the use of the taxonomy regime, which may yet exclude nuclear and natural gas,” said an ECR spokesperson said. Both are considered bridge technologies by the ECR and should be eligible for funding under the recovery fund, argues Alexandr Vondra, a Czech MEP from the ECR group.

Conservatives were also unhappy with the letter’s wording linking EU recovery spending to member states’ commitment to a national objective of climate neutrality by 2050, arguing this “goes beyond what was agreed” by EU leaders at their December summit.

> Read the full MEP letter below or download here.

Letter Michel - Recovery Aligned with the Paris Agreement

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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