The European Commission is currently working on a recovery plan for Europe and intends to present a new proposal for the EU’s seven-year budget, known as the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) in the light of the Covid-19 crisis. The budget is expected to be firmly in support of the European Green Deal which aims to transform union to a low-carbon economy, without reducing prosperity and whilst improving people’s quality of life, through cleaner air and water, better health and a thriving natural world.
The EU heads of state are due to meet next week via a video summit to agree a recovery plan after the coronavirus crisis. A proposed roadmap for recovery was circulated ahead of the summit by European Council President and the European Commission. The roadmap reinforces the EU’s position that the Green transition and the Digital transformation must play a central role in relaunching and modernising the economy and assures lawmakers that every euro spent on economic recovery measures would be linked to the green and digital transitions.
The determination in the approach has been met with criticism and concern from a number of member states including comments by an Italian MEP stating Numerous companies are closing, many people do not know what to do next and you want to talk about plastic cups or whether we should raise our climate targets to 50% or 55%.
There have been calls for environmental laws to be relaxed or delayed due to the pandemic including all “non-essential” elements of the Green Deal to be postponed, including the climate change bill, a tightening of emission limits for industry and the reform of the EU ETS, Europe’s carbon trading scheme. However, in Germany, businesses are campaigning for a green recovery, calling for economic reconstruction to be based on climate goals and to ensure plans for an energy transition are secured.
Whilst it is clear that there are mixed opinions on how much focus should be placed on driving forward environmental policies during a time of economic crisis, there is sustained support for the momentum to be maintained during these difficult times. The largest unintended benefit of the pandemic so far has been a significant decrease in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and it is being widely voiced that there are lessons to be learned globally on how to deal with the climate change crisis given the ability to react that has been demonstrated. It is therefore a positive message that the EU is sending that the focus on the emergency that had already been declared when Coronavirus struck, has not been forgotten and is still at the forefront of leaders’ minds.