The European Union plans to spend an astronomic €1 trillion in the next ten years on turning its economy greener, but the question now is who will pay for it.
The EU has even set up an equability fund to help less developed member states, but the debates in the European Parliament show that reconciling the various national interests will be very difficult – if at all possible.
Since announcing the ambitious plan of making Europe carbon-neutral by 2050, the slogan has been that saving the planet is very expensive, but the cost of doing nothing will be even higher.
While nobody is seriously debating the principles of stopping climate change, a recent debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg showed that reaching carbon-neutral goals will be perhaps be much harder than expected.
The plan of the European Commission is to spend €100 billion a year on green investments and set up a Just Transition Fund for those countries whose economies will be hardest-hit by the planned changes.
“People are at the core of the European Green Deal, our vision to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “The plan that we present today, to mobilize at least €1 trillion, will show the direction and unleash a green investment wave.”
The EU commissioner in charge of the green shift in the economy, Frans Timmermans, said the separate fund will initially have €7.5 billion, but many MEPs representing the Baltic States and East-Central Europe have expressed both their doubts about the viability of the huge project and fears that the populations of the poorer member states will end up footing most of the bill.
Visegrad Four nations express their concerns
Polish conservative MEP, Grzegorz Tobiszowski, pointed out that not only has the EU not conducted any feasibility studies before announcing the ambitious plan, but it is also overly optimistic regarding the costs for individual member states.
“We have calculated that our country (Poland) alone will need to spend several hundred million euros towards climate neutrality,” he said, adding that before making any definitive commitment he would like to see feasibility studies included in the overall plan.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has previously spoken out against any climate change agenda that disproportionately affects the poorest, saying, “We cannot allow Brussels bureaucrats to have poor people and poor nations bear the costs of the fight against climate change.”
Romanian MEP and deputy chair of the European People’s Party, Siegfried Mureșan, said that the details of the Just Transition Fund must be clarified as soon as possible, an opinion shared by Hungarian conservative MEP Edina Tóth from Fidesz, who added that the environmental plan should not be carried at the cost of reducing cohesion funds or farm subsidies.
While last December the European Council was quite lenient regarding countries using nuclear energy to meet carbon-neutrality goals, the Social-Democratic faction has now made it clear during Tuesday’s debate that they will not yield in their position opposing it.
Title image: Power plant (illustration)