Will the Green Deal fall victim to the collateral damage of the coronavirus crisis, or will it help us to emerge from the crisis? Whilst business lobby groups push for a delay with regard to action aimed at the Green Deal, other actors are campaigning for the Green Deal to be maintained.
A green recovery alliance has formed around the MEP Pascal Canfin (Renew), Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Apart from 79 MEPs, it also includes the European Trade Union Confederation, industry associations, CEOs, NGOs and think tanks. In spite of the economic recession, the Alliance is in support of continuing to work on implementing the targets of the European Deal. Prior to this, 13 – meanwhile their number has risen to 17 – European Environment ministers have urged not to forget the dangers of climate crisis and species extinction.
Addressing Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, executive Vice President Frans Timmermans, responsible for climate protection, expressed the necessity of holding on to the Green Deal: “It is our growth strategy, and will be at the heart of our #COVID19 recovery strategy”. He emphasised that fighting the Coronavirus and the climate crisis are not a contradiction: The Coronavirus is a shock; the climate crisis is a chronic disease; both needed to be fought. Von der Leyen also confirmed that the Green Deal had a significant role to play after the reconstruction: “We will need to build a resilient, green and digital Europe. At the heart of this will be our growth strategy, the European Green Deal, and the twin transition and opportunity of digitalisation and decarbonisation.” The majority of Parliament is also behind the Green Deal, demanding an ambitious, green recovery plan.
The Commission will probably present a revised version of the 2020 work programme in the last week of April. A draft document has already been leaked and passages published. The planned schedule for three concrete dossiers will remain on track: the “2030 Climate Target Plan”, the “Renewed Sustainable Finance Strategy” and the “Renovation Wave”. The last two measures are considered absolute key priorities for a post Coronavirus recovery plan. Some initiatives are deemed to be less essential and therefore run the risk to be delayed. This probably also affects the biodiversity and the “farm-to-fork” strategy. However, Timmermans emphasised in his exchange with the European Parliament that possible delays will only be weeks and not months. He promised to continue working to ensure that the original schedule would remain topical.
AK sees crisis as a chance for climate protection
The AK also sees in the Green Deal a number of connecting factors for the recovery plan after the Coronavirus crisis. An economic revival could be achieved by bringing forward individual measures to create jobs and to accelerate ecological structural change. In particular, investments in the expansion of renewable energies, climate-friendly heating systems and an ambitious expansion of public transport, as well as a resource-saving circular economy in industry, should be at the centre of a green recovery plan. Given the economic slowdown subsequently to the Coronavirus crisis, an increase of resources – above all the Just Transition Fund and the European Social Fund Plus – would be as desirable as earmarking parts of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) for climate protection measures.
Imposing a rigorous austerity policy as a response to the coming economic crisis would not only have a disastrous impact on social structures and the population, but would also come close to a capitulation to the climate crisis. It is now in the hands of the EU und the Member States to continue the fight for a greener, climate-neutral Europe. As Timmermans says: “The Green Deal is not a luxury, it is about the survival of humanity”.