EU states urged to raise green investment ambitions
EU member states need to commit more funding to renewables investments, according to a new report.
‘Funding climate and energy transition in the EU: the untapped potential of regional funds’, published by Brussels-based NGO Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, found only 9.7% of current EU funds for 2014-2020 have been invested in clean energy infrastructure.
Member states must “urgently review” the way they spend the future 2021-2027 EU budget if they are serious about achieving climate neutrality in practice while rolling-out long-term investments which can stimulate the sustainable economic recovery, said the NGO.
The report noted economic support measures currently being developed and discussed are “much needed” in the fight against the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
It highlighted that once the “basic functioning” of EU economies is restored, countries will have to make “long-term investment plans” which should prioritise the transition to climate neutrality.
CAN Europe finance and subsidies policy coordinator Markus Trilling said: “As EU leaders are deciding now how they will spend the next generation of EU funds, they must put the money where their mouth is.
“To reach the agreed climate neutrality goal, EU governments must urgently redirect EU funds to climate action, and away from fossil fuels. Doing so is the best way to boost the recovery of European economies.”
The report referred specifically to so-called ‘operational programmes’, being drafted, as “key to steering” regional development investments towards the EU’s climate objectives.
Trilling added: “Targeted investments in the fight against climate change would contribute to the European recovery.
“For this, future EU funds must prioritise infrastructure investments that catalyse the decarbonisation of all sectors of the economy, such as renewable energy from wind and solar, energy efficiency and sustainable mobility and agriculture.
“This will bring the long-term sustainable economic stimulus making our societies resilient towards future shocks.”
The study noted some Central and Eastern European countries have requested more financial help from the EU purse in return for committing to higher climate goals, though current spending levels remain low.
Poland, for example, has invested 7.7% of its EU regional funding on clean energy infrastructure, making the country the EU’s fourth “worst spender” after Slovakia (6.6%), Bulgaria (6.7%) and Croatia (7%), the report found.
Miljenka Kuhar, a senior policy expert at Croatian NGO Society for Sustainable Development Design, said: “As the current programming period was the first in which Croatia participated as a member state, results achieved at the end of 2019 only reflect its inexperience and under-preparedness for the absorption of EU funds.
“As we are facing a current health and economic crisis, we can just hope that Croatia will do better in the next period from 2021-2027 and that this crisis helped all of us to set our priorities straight and to realise that if we want a better and healthier future we need to invest more in the climate today.”
Taj Zavodnik, a policy expert at Slovenian NGO Focus, said: “When planning the use of EU funds for the period 2021-2027, which will be a crucial period for economic recovery after the COVID-19 and to address the climate crisis, Slovenian government should maximise the use of EU funds for implementation of National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) measures estimated at €28.4m.
“Investing in sustainable mobility, energy efficiency in residual buildings, solar energy production, storage and transmission would create a better future for all of us. “
CAN Europe said the next EU budget, for the 2021-2027 period, “must increase its focus on climate action far more than today, dedicating 40% to climate action. It must ensure more support to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, housing and mobility.”
The NGO said this will allow the EU, particularly its lesser developed regions, to “implement the climate neutrality objective that EU heads of state and government agreed last year, and for the bloc to achieve a new, substantially increased 2030 climate target”.