National recovery plans ‘a missed opportunity’ – NGO reaction

National plans to reset the economy after the Covid-19 crisis fall short of delivering a green and just transition. Despite some good measures, there is a real risk of returning to a business-as-usual scenario if governments do not significantly improve their plans.

Member States have submitted today their national recovery and resilience plans to the European Commission. Governments are hoping to unlock the EU’s largest investment plan ever aimed at rebuilding the bloc’s economy in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

Each plan must ensure that at least 37% of the expenditure is directed to the green transition and the remaining 63% complies with the do no significant harm principle. Investments must be also aligned with the EU priorities, overall the European Green Deal.

However, the plans submitted suffer from a lack of long-term and transversal approach. The EEB is concerned about the narrow focus of most presented measures, calling on the European Commission to demand Member States put forward transformative recovery plans to truly build back better.

Barbara Mariani, Senior Policy Officer for Climate at the European Environmental Bureau, says:

“All that glitters is not green. The recovery plans we looked at feature some good measures but a lot of greenwashing.

Building highways or dams or refurbishing gas infrastructure to produce blue hydrogen are neither climate nor environmentally friendly investments. Green fiscal measures are overall too few and we are still far from a systemic change of our economies which the recovery plans should drive.

We cannot miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our economies,”

Patrizia Heidegger, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability of the European Environmental Bureau, adds:

“These plans offer at best a tunnel vision on climate-related measures. Most measures focus too narrowly on climate and adaptation while missing addressing other environmental challenges related to social justice and equity.

There is a risk that member states will repeat the mistakes made after the 2008 financial crisis and focus on economic recovery only while neglecting social justice.”

EU governments have also failed to properly involve civil society in the drafting of their plans. The EEB and its partners have witnessed how public participation and consultation with civil society has been rather weak. If not addressed now, the problem is likely to persist throughout the implementation of the plans.

The ball is now in the court of the EU institutions, with the European Commission in the driving seat as it will have to negotiate effective reforms and measures with EU capitals in the next two months before approving the plans. The Commission must ensure that 37% of spending is adhered to climate, that the remaining 63% is non-harmful, and that policy reforms are put in place to help build back better and create incentives for a green deal transformation.

The Council will have to endorse the Commission’s decision while the Parliament will have a scrutiny role and can “check and balance” on the other two institutions’ deliberations.

The EEB will monitor work around the recovery plans before their approval and will continue to demand more space for civil society to comment on how the EU will spend this money.


For more details check our position paper, where we outline our priorities to ensure the request for funds are in line with the European Commission’s climate and environmental objectives.

National recovery plans ‘a missed opportunity’ –  NGO reaction
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