€200 billion will flow into the low-carbon agenda – or will it?
For the first time ever decarbonisation is an explicit goal of the next EU budget. And it shows: the European Commission wants to devote fully 20% of the €1 trillion budget, which runs from 2014 to 2020, to climate-related actions. The goal: to change the face of the European energy system and sow the seeds for a low-carbon economy in 2050. But it is the Member States who will ultimately have to make up their minds whether they want to make the EU’s green dream come true. Sonja van Renssen reports from Brussels.
The battle for the next EU budget, which runs from 2014 to 2020, is entering a crucial phase. The European Commission has made proposals, which the Member States will have a final say on. The European Parliament also plays a role, but it can traditionally only say “yes” or “no” to the entire package (although MEPs are trying to expand their negotiating powers under the Lisbon Treaty). A final agreement on the budget is expected by the end of this year.
The budget is a notoriously complicated affair. There are lots of parts to it, member states rather than the Commission will ultimately oversee much of how it’s spent, and it’s not really organised along themes such as energy and climate change. But one thing is clear: its goal is to support the EU 2020 strategy for growth and jobs – including the 20% targets for emission cuts, renewables and efficiency – and lay the foundations for a low-carbon economy in 2050.
For this reason, the European Commission is proposing a thorough “greening” of the budget. It wants a fifth of the €1 trillion package to be spent on climate action, i.e. projects that contribute to climate adaptation or greenhouse gas emission reductions, which may be anything from building renovations and clean energy R&D to cross-border interconnectors and greener transport.
EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard has naturally made much of the green shift in the budget. It’s the first time a quantified goal for climate change spending has ever been proposed and it’s of significant scale. Today a mere 5% of the EU budget is estimated to go to climate-related activities. But the current budget, running from 2007-13, was decided under very different circumstances. ‘Climate was not so high on the agenda back in 2004-5,’ says Keti Medarova-Bergstrom from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). ‘The switch to greener spending came with the economic recovery plans of 2008-9.’