The new president of the European Commission von der Leyen has made the European Green Deal a top priority for the European Union, placing a strong emphasis on how EU funds can further support the clean energy transition in line with a more ambitious climate policy.
The proposed European Green Deal aims to increase climate ambition, create a climate law and strengthen financial support to spur climate action across Europe. The EU budget, complemented by the proposed creation of a ‘Just Transition Fund’, can play a significant role in speeding up the transition away from oil, gas and coal and in promoting climate-compatible investments at national and regional level.
In light of the climate crisis and the mass demonstrations against governments’ failure to tackle it, the EU budget has a great potential to steer the next generation of EU funds from 2021 to 2027 towards climate neutrality: support the transition to zero-carbon economies, particularly in the EU’s lesser developed and more polluted regions, and end subsidising carbon-intensive infrastructure as it is still happening today.
This requires a much stronger focus on climate action in the overall budget spending, and allowing Cohesion Policy funds to play their part in the decarbonisation of central and eastern Europe in particular.
Beyond the battles - made even more difficult by the financial shortfall caused by Brexit - over the size of the budget between the frugal net-payers and the needy net-recipients, EU leaders have the chance to improve current climate action proposals regardless of the total EU budget amount.
“The commission calling for a European Green Deal on the one hand and governments not committing to raise the climate ambition of the next EU budget on the other hand would be nonsensical” said Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe. “EU leaders must understand that taxpayers do not want their money to be spent on fossil fuels anymore. On the opposite, citizens want their money to be spent on a sustainable, zero-carbon future that will benefit the climate and their economies at the same time. EU leaders must increase the share of the EU budget’s climate action spending to 40 percent, and ensure that this overall target trickles down to the various funds, regional funding in particular. Support for fossil fuels, in particular gas, is not compatible with a climate-proof EU budget.”
Raphael Hanoteaux, EU policy officer at CEE Bankwatch Network, added that smarter spending of Cohesion Policy funds is a win win for the EU and the surest way to fulfil Europe's climate ambitions and that the most at-risk regions can shift away from fossil fuels and towards a just energy transition while those who pay more to the pot are assured of the Budget's value for money.
The European Council is meeting today and tomorrow to discuss the matter further.