The European Union has discovered what Democrats in America have known for years: never let a crisis go to waste.
In that spirit, the EU is presenting a massive relief package for European economies to help them get back on their feet following the coronavirus lockdowns.
But the plan isn’t designed solely to alleviate the crisis. It’s mainly structured to advance the EU’s climate change agenda to make the world safe for windmills…or something.
The EU’s plan seeks to pour money into emissions-busting sectors: €91bn (£81bn) a year for home energy efficiency and green heating, €25bn of renewable energy, and €20bn for clean cars over two years, plus 2m charging points in five years. Up to €60bn will go to zero-emissions trains and the production of 1m tonnes of clean hydrogen is planned.
At least a million green jobs will be created, with workers in polluting industries helped into new roles, a critical part of the plan. Increasing the Just Transition Fund more than fivefold to €40bn minimises the risk of protests against green measures, especially in states with the heaviest coal use such as Poland, Germany and Romania, which will be among the biggest recipients. This is politically necessary, despite investment in the green economy already being a no-brainer.
Barack Obama invested massive amounts of money in the green economy and gave us the weakest economic recovery in history, so good luck with that, EU.
Aren’t they worried some of that money will go to dirty, carbon-polluting industries? If it does, the greens are ready for it:
The Just Transition Fund will be routed through the European Investment Bank, but campaigners say its climate criteria allow the backing of gas projects that would lock in emissions for years. Another key fund, the €150bn React EU programme, allows member states to decide how to spend the money – most of the almost €2tn in coronavirus rescue funds spent by EU nations so far has had no green guarantees.
Worse, say critics, climate conditions on large parts of the main EU budget have been lifted for three years because of the pandemic. The proportion of the budget reserved for climate projects remains stuck at 25%, despite demands by the European parliament and many others to raise it.
The commission rejects these criticisms, saying the “objective of the green economy is present throughout the whole management of the funds”. Whether this oversight proves effective will be the critical test.
While the rest of the world’s economies are unleashed following the easing of the pandemic, the EU will be stuck trying to achieve green goals that will put a brake on any recovery plans they may have. Their unemployment situation — already bad before the pandemic — will almost certainly worsen as coal and oil industries will suffer huge job losses as governments try to starve them out of existence by denying them relief funds.
The voters in the EU should know that they are doing this deliberately, with their eyes open. They will create hardship and misery unnecessarily. But the way they see it, a few lost jobs is worth it if we save the planet.
Maybe voters should see to it that the officials lose their jobs at the next election.