As the economic toll of the coronavirus crisis becomes increasingly evident, concerns that the EU’s ambitious sustainability targets will fall by the wayside have grown.
In the first instance, these concerns led the environmental ministers of 13 EU member states to issue a joint statement calling for the EU to remain committed to the European Green Deal.
“We should withstand the temptations of short-term solutions in response to the present crisis that risk locking the EU in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come,” they wrote.
On the back of that statement, this week saw the launch of the ‘green recovery alliance’ in the European Parliament, an initiative led by French MEP Pascal Canfin appealing for a strong, coordinated economic response built around the Green Deal strategy of sustainable growth.
The new alliance, whose 180 signatories include chief executive officers, MEPs, trade unions, environmental activists, business leaders and thinktanks, sees the ‘moment of recovery’ after the crisis as an opportunity to develop a new model of prosperity based on an economy built around green principles.
“Political will is here. We already have the plans and strategy,” said the 14 April statement - or call for mobilisation, as Canfin put it.
“Projects such as the European Green Deal, and other national zero carbon development plans have a huge potential to build back our economy and contribute to creating a new prosperity model.”
Under the European Green Deal, the EU will achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The deal provides a roadmap for a growth strategy towards achieving a circular, resource-efficient and competitive economy, where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. It offers the twin benefits of stimulating economies and creating jobs while accelerating the green transition in a cost-efficient way.
The new alliance urges support for the implementation of Green Recovery Investment Packages to act as accelerators of the transition towards climate neutrality and healthy ecosystems.
“We therefore commit to working together, sharing knowledge, exchanging expertise and creating synergies to deliver the investment decisions we need," the signatories to the statement declared.
The COVID-19 pandemic could well prove to be ‘a shock to our economy tougher than the 2008 crisis’, requiring massive effort and investment to tackle the social and economic consequences. To prepare Europe for the future, recovery plans are needed at the local, national and EU level, “enshrining the fight against climate change as the core of the economic strategy”.
“COVID-19 will not make climate change and nature degradation go away. We will not win the fight against COVID-19 without a solid economic response. Let’s not oppose those two battles, but let’s fight and win them at the same time,” the alliance concluded its appeal.
And as Canfin tweeted: “We will come out of this historic crisis stronger."