On 27 March, the European Commission has published its proposal for a Covid-19 recovery plan. To ensure the recovery is sustainable, even, inclusive and fair for all Member States, the European Commission is proposing to create a new recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, embedded within a revamped long-term EU budget. The Commission has also unveiled its adjusted Work Programme for 2020, which will prioritise the actions needed to propel Europe's recovery and resilience. Next Generation EU of €750 billion as well as targeted reinforcements to the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 will bring the EU budget in total to €1.85 trillion.
The proposal also includes a 25 Percent target for EU budget to be spent on climate investments and additional funding for Horizon Europe.
The proposal explicitly acknowledges the importance of the transport sector and stresses that there will also be a focus on "accelerating the production and deployment of sustainable vehicles and vessels as well as alternative fuels. The Connecting Europe Facility, InvestEU and other funds will support the financing of the installation of one million charging points, clean fleet renewals by cities and companies, sustainable transport infrastructure and enable the shift to clean urban mobility."
The Commission further emphasizes that "public investment to relaunch the recovery of the transport sector should come with a commitment from industry to invest in cleaner and more sustainable mobility."
Objectively speaking, the Commission has managed to strike a difficult balance between crisis recovery and sustainability without giving up on the Green Deal as it was demanded by various industries including car manufacturers. It is a powerful proposal that now has to be discussed and amended if necessary. With regard to transport, the proposal remains relatively vague as it does not further define "climate spending" or "sustainable vehicles". Are modern combustion engines sustainable or does the proposal specifically target zero-emissions technologies? The Commission is also preparing an EU hydrogen strategy and has presented ideas in a roadmap, before the strategy’s publication in June. Hence, it can be expected that the stimulus package also aims at promoting clean hydrogen energy.
The crisis can be a catalyst for good or for bad, which in itself also depends on the view. So far, the Commission seems to be willing to use the crisis as a chance to promote a green, sustainable change. The European Commission itself is claiming that it is the biggest green stimulus package in history, but it is up to debate and remains to be seen how green the package is, when it's being adopted.
Frans Timmermans, the First Vice President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Climate Action, was quite clear about this point. He stressed that "not a single Euro should be spent on propping up dirty industry."
The proposal still remains a proposal and will certainly be subject to change as it will need everyone's support. The EU heads of governments will debate the Commission’s proposal at a virtual summit on 18 June.
Related links: - Commission press release, 27 May 2020. - Commission proposal. - Parliament Press Release: Response to pandemic is vital for the sustainable future of the transport sector. - BBC: Climate change: Could the coronavirus crisis spur a green.