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European Commission unveils €750bn post-covid recovery plan with green transition initiatives

“Investing in a more circular economy has the potential to create at least 700,000 new jobs by 2030 and help the EU to reduce its dependency on external suppliers and increase its resilience to global supply issues.”

The European Commission (EC) has unveiled a €750 billion aid package to help the EU recover from the coronavirus pandemic and has asserted that green measures will be at the heart of the plan.

The recovery plan is labelled ‘Next Generation EU’.

“The recovery plan turns the immense challenge we face into an opportunity, not only by supporting the recovery but also by investing in our future: the European Green Deal and digitalisation will boost jobs and growth, the resilience of our societies and the health of our environment,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The EU recovery plan focuses on EU Green Deal initiatives, including the circular economy, renewable energy like wind and solar power, a “renovation wave” of buildings and infrastructure and clean transport, among other things.

The EC also proposes allocating €94.4 billion to research and innovation in its upcoming Horizon Europe programme.

According to the EC’s document published today entitled ‘Repair and prepare for the next generation’, the EU’s Green Deal is at the heart of Europe’s growth strategy.

It also stated: “Public investments in the recovery should respect the green oath to “do no harm”. The priorities identified in the European Semester, National Energy and Climate Change Plans (NECPs) and Just Transition Plans should guide this investment.

“The investment guidelines for the new Solvency Support Instrument will also reflect the need to prioritise green investments. This will be supported by the 25% of the EU budget spent on climate investments and additional funding for Horizon Europe, reflecting the crucial role of research and innovation in driving the shift towards a clean, circular, competitive and climate neutral economy.”

Spending will also be guided by a sustainable finance taxonomy, which aims to channel private investments into technologies that contribute to at least one of six pre-defined environmental objectives, such as climate change mitigation.

In relation to employment, the post-covid investment should help the European Green Deal become a job-creating engine. Meeting the existing 2030 climate and energy targets can add 1% of GDP and create almost one million new green jobs, the EC said. Investing in a more circular economy has the potential to create at least 700,000 new jobs by 2030 and help the EU to reduce its dependency on external suppliers and increase its resilience to global supply issues.

Elsewhere, protecting and restoring biodiversity and natural ecosystems is key to boosting our resilience and preventing the emergence and spread of future outbreaks, the EC said. According to the EC, this redoubles the importance of the recently adopted EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the upcoming EU Forest Strategy. Under InvestEU a new natural capital and circular economy initiative will mobilise at least €10 billion over the next ten years.

The EC will unveil the specifics of its climate spending plans on Thursday (28th May).

‘Decarbonisation of our economy’

However, the EC’s plan has received a mixed response.

Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the environmental NGO European Environmental Bureau, said: “The Commission’s proposals represents an important step in the right direction. We are happy to see the European Green Deal described as ‘Europe’s recovery strategy’.”

However, Wates warned that much more needed to be done to deliver on the EU’s Green Deal and that today’s proposals were far from perfect: “The Commission’s proposals fail to address the enormous problem of toxic pollution, which is a major threat to our health. The part of the strategy on learning lessons from the crisis doesn’t even mention habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, which have been widely touted as leading causes of new diseases.”

The European Biogas Association (EBA) also welcomed the EC’s proposal for an EU Recovery Plan, noting that the proposal includes crucial support for the biogas industry.

In a statement, the EBA said: “The Recovery Plan proposed by the European Commission will be determinant to ensure there is not a step back in the path towards climate-neutrality. The Covid-19 crisis is seriously affecting renewable energy industries, which are a key pillar for the decarbonisation of our economy. Biogas and biomethane are an optimal solution for the fast and deep decarbonisation of multiple sectors of our economy, including heating, transport and energy.”

However, not all environmental organisations welcomed the EC’s plan. Greenpeace criticised the EU recovery initiative calling it contradictory at best and damaging at worst. “The plan includes several eye-catching green “options”, including home renovation schemes, taxes on single-use plastic waste and the revenues of digital giants like Google and Facebook. But it does not solve the problem of existing support for gas, oil, coal, and industrial farming – some of the main drivers of a mounting climate and environmental emergency,” Greenpeace, said, adding that the plan also fails to set strict social or green conditions on access to funding for polluters like airlines or carmakers.

If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

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Read: European Commission takes aim at ‘greenwashing’ in new circular economy action plan

Read: EU chief likens Green New Deal to Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment and includes plan for biodegradable plastics framework.

Read: European Commission unveils proposal for EU’s ‘first-ever’ climate law

Read: European Green Deal: Bioplastics to play a crucial role in making the deal become reality.

Read: Bioeconomy policy monitor

Read: Bioplastics to ‘play key role’ in implementation of circular economy and EU environmental directives.

Read: USDA proposes new GM rule.

Read: USDA amends its guidelines for designating bio-based products.

Read: European Commission urges industry to do more to boost recycled plastics market.

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