EU Recovery Plans Have Lawmakers Worried About Greenwashing

The Greens in the European Parliament warned that some member states’ recovery plans may lead to so-called greenwashing and could fail to meet the region’s climate-related spending goals as it embarks on an unprecedented energy transition.

The political group called on the European Commission to reject national measures that are not in line with standards set for a climate-friendly recovery.

While some national plans appear to meet climate-related spending targets on paper, “a closer look reveals that billions of euros are subject to mis-tagging and rulebending,” it said in a letter to the European Union’s executive.

The 27-nation EU wants to become the world’s first carbon-neutral region by 2050, an effort known as the Green Deal. It is a central pillar of the EU’s Next Generation plan -- a 800 billion euro ($974 billion) pandemic-recovery fund -- as well as its next seven-year budget.

The legislation associated with the fund sets “ambitious goals in making the EU recovery plan an instrument of its green and digital transformation,” Philippe Lamberts, president of the Greens in the parliament, said in a statement. “Letting it become just another greenwashing exercise will gravely harm the very credibility of the EU Green Deal.”

To ensure that the massive stimulus helps advance the ambitious clean-energy overhaul, the EU agreed that at least 37% of each national plan must be allocated for climate-related investments. In addition, member states must respect the “no harm” environmental principle, which aims to channel spending into technologies that are in line with Green Deal objectives.

According to the letter to the commission, the Greens have identified “many cases” where EU requirements and the classification of green investments have been “circumvented, ignored or simply not addressed -- leading to greenwashing and in some cases to a potential breach of the 37% spending requirement for green investment.”

Below are some of the shortcomings in member states’ recovery programs cited by the Greens in the letter:

  • Allocation of significant amounts of funding to hybrid vehicles in Germany, France and the Czech Republic even if such investments aren’t compliant with EU climate goals
  • Lack of detail and regulatory requirements for building renovations in Italy, Portugal and the Czech Republic
  • Erroneous classification of low-emission public transport in Slovenia and Poland
  • Authorization of purchases of diesel-fueled tractors under a measure to modernize the agriculture sector in Italy
  • Dubious classification of instruments to support entrepreneurship in the Czech Republic
  • Replacement of coal-based heating systems with gas boilers being labeled as fully contributing to the green target

More than 20 EU member states have so far submitted their national plans. The commission has two months to assess them.

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