Environmental groups and NGOs have given a guarded welcome to the Commission’s financing plans for its much-vaunted “European Green Deal”, a flagship initiative of the new executive which aims to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050.
The Commission’s proposal for a seven-year, €100 billion “Just Transition Fund” is meant to help EU regions, particularly the most carbon-intensive ones, speed up their transition away from fossil fuels. The ten recipients will be Poland, Germany, Romania, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands.
Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans started a “European tour” last week in Berlin, to promote the Green Deal he is charged with implementing.
Also last week, at Strasbourg plenary the European Parliament approved the European Green Deal, which involves developing “cleaner, greener ways” to run Europe’s economy while creating jobs.
After a vote on Wednesday, the EPP group, the assembly’s biggest, insisted that the Fund “should not force, but help” Europeans to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
However, a Commission spokesman has now warned, “The EU is committed to becoming the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050 but this requires significant investment from both the EU and the national public sector as well as the private sector.”
"The transformation ahead of us is unprecedented and it will only work if it is just and if it works for all. We will support our people and our regions that need to make bigger efforts in this transformation to make sure that we leave no one behind" European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
New Commission president Ursula von der Leyen adds: “The transformation ahead of us is unprecedented and it will only work if it is just and if it works for all. We will support our people and our regions that need to make bigger efforts in this transformation to make sure that we leave no one behind.”
EPP MEP Esther de Lange has cautioned that the deal “should include industrial and trade policies to ensure a just transition to greener jobs.”
Reaction from the NGO world to the “Just Transition” mechanism proposal has come from Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, saying the financial support “will spur climate action across Europe’s regions and shows the EU can put its money where its mouth is.”
“The lack of financial means can no longer be used as an excuse for not committing to increase climate ambition. On the contrary, this fund should pave the way for raising the EU 2030 climate target to 65 percent emissions cuts in line with the Paris Agreement.”
“But it must go hand-in-hand with a climate-friendly EU budget for the next decade that stops subsidizing fossil fuels and invests a lot more in climate action than today,” Trio added.
"It [The Just Transition Fund] must go hand-in-hand with a climate-friendly EU budget for the next decade that stops subsidizing fossil fuels and invests a lot more in climate action than today" Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe
Further reaction comes from the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), a body that represents Europe’s peripheral regions, which says it welcomes EU commitment to “an ambitious climate agenda” but warns “such ambition should not lead to a diversion of funding.”
Some fear that finances being pumped into the European Green Deal in the coming years will be at the expense of future cohesion funding for Europe’s poorest regions and Vasco Cordeiro, CPMR president, said: “We welcome the proposed mobilisation of fresh resources to support the new fund but this cannot justify further cuts in the cohesion policy envelope in the MFF 2021-2027 negotiations.”
“Preserving an ambitious EU budget and a strong budget for cohesion policy must remain the main priority to support climate action at territorial level.”
Elsewhere, Koen Coppenholle, chief executive of CEMBUREAU, the European Cement Association, remarked, “Our revised low-carbon roadmap will be aligned with the Green Deal ambition of a carbon neutral Europe, looking at all actions and policy levers needed to achieve carbon neutrality along the cement and concrete value chain. It is already clear that the forward-looking policies of our industry on innovation, waste, CO2 transportation networks, access to affordable energy and sustainable construction will play a leading role.''
Alban Maggiar, president of SMEunited, the body that represents Europe’s SMEs, noted, “SMEs are pleased the Commission intends to focus support on the most impacted regions, making the support conditional to a transition plan and including support for investments in SMEs.”