Calls for EU budget to put people and planet first gather steam


A host of academic institutions, a diverse range of civil society groups, and a number of businesses and trade unions [1] have called on the European Commission to push for the EU’s next 7-year budget to be truly sustainable.

The recommendations – handed over to First Vice-President Timmermans on World Happiness Day yesterday – remind the Commission that the EU’s budget for 2020 to 2027 should work to serve the wellbeing of people and not be a zero-sum game between member states.

The group – which includes the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) – calls for [2] sustainable development to be incorporated into the EU’s funding priorities and decision making mechanisms in its next budget – the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations with around 140 organisations in more than 30 countries.

With the Commission expected to publish its budget proposal on 2 May, intense political debate on the future of EU spending is currently taking place between the European Commission, national governments and the European Parliament.

EEB Director for Global Policies and Sustainability Patrizia Heidegger said:

The new EU budget must strengthen the EU’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 – which global leaders committed to in 2015 in order to end poverty and protect the planet. While the EU has a plan to achieve the SDGS – its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – so far not enough action has been taken to make it a reality. Europe simply can’t afford a budget full of contradictory investments and wasteful spending.

EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates highlighted that the recommendations include a call [3] to boost the EU’s environmental support scheme – the LIFE fund:

It’s not just environmentalists who are vocal about the need to support environmental protection under the next EU budget. Now, academic institutions, a number of businesses, trade unions, and social and development groups have also called for a boost to the only direct source of EU environmental and climate funding: the LIFE programme. LIFE is money well spent with predictions showing that the scheme will have created around 74,500 jobs over seven years. And it is estimated that projects funded in 2014 will produce a benefit to society of some €1.7 billion – more than four times the overall LIFE budget for that year.


Notes to editors:

[1] The multi-stakeholder platform on the implementation of the SDGs (SDGs MSP) was set up by the European Commission to support and advise the Commission on the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is chaired by First Vice-President Timmermans and involves 30 members from: civil society organisations (CSOs) from environment, social, human rights and development fields; businesses; trade unions; academic institutions; individual experts; and eight observers. The SDGs MSP is supported by the office of the Secretariat General. Six members of the platform abstained from taking an opinion on this report: COPA COGECA, BusinessEurope, Mella Frewen (Food Drink Europe), Committee of the Regions, Eurocities and Council of European Municipalities and Regions.

[2] The recommendations include calls for:
> more policy coherence in order to achieve effective and efficient spending;
> putting the ‘think sustainability first’ principle into the heart of decision making through the EU’s Better Regulation agenda (which is also proposed by the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance);
> ‘conditionalities’ referring to sustainability criteria to be included in future regulation;
> introducing a link between EU spending and the rule of law in Member States;
> transforming the European Semester into a delivery model for sustainability;
> excluding contradictory unsustainable funding “hotspots”.

[3] See Chapter 4, paragraph F of the recommendations:
Benchmarking means setting a target to ensure that a certain amount of money – the minimum expected level of expenditure – is targeted towards specific objectives. In the current MFF period, for instance the EU sets targets for making a certain percentage of the budget climate related. Within a specific fund, earmarking and ring-fencing are similar ways intended to ensure a minimum spending in favour of a sustainability objective. The platform suggests including clearly defined and binding benchmarks or targets for sustainability objectives, including in climate, nature conservation, environment, social and economic measures across all EU budget instruments, both for centrally managed and co-managed funds. Also, the co-benefits of actions should be recognized, as lack of action in one area will hinder progress in others. In order to guarantee and effective spending, the “earmarked” or “benchmarked” money should also be (co-) managed by the appropriate and competent authorities in charge of the specific objective. Such earmarking should – besides the field of climate action – in particular be introduced for nature conservation related funding to halt biodiversity loss and for spending on social inclusion or air quality. Besides, based on the experience with the Connecting Europe Facility, the platform suggests creating a funding line dedicated to sustainable and green infrastructure (TEN-G). This funding line should focus on trans-European projects of EU added value delivering on ecosystem services (flood protection, etc.). The platform also underlines the importance of strengthening the only fund purely dedicated to the environment, the LIFE programme.

Calls for EU budget to put people and planet first gather steam
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