The decision to spend a third of the European Union’s Covid-19 recovery budget on efforts to cut carbon emissions has been broadly welcomed, though environmental groups criticise a lack of spending oversight.
Under the agreement, EU states are likely to agree later in the year that they must cut carbon emissions by between 50 and 55 per cent up to 2030 – a target already adopted by the Government.
However, some spending on climate transition subsidies proposed by the European Commission was cut in a bid to win the agreement of thrifty northern states.
Environmental groups complained about a lack of accountability to ensure EU states’ spending aligned with the previously EU green deal, which featured an ambition to become the first carbon-neutral continent.
Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan welcomed the agreement, saying it recognised that all EU expenditure should obey the aims of the Paris climate agreement.
“The commitment that 40 per cent of the CAP expenditure is expected to be dedicated to climate action reinforces the EU’s commitment to the EU green deal,” he said.
“We will ensure climate resilience is built into our own economic recovery, through both access to EU funding and our own resources,” he added, saying the July stimulus package would promote jobs and cut emissions.
New EU measures this week will encourage renewable energies, while legislation before the Dáil this week will guarantee up to €500 million for the climate action fund over the next seven years,” he said.
However, his Green Party colleague Dublin MEP Ciarán Cuffe said the deal was “disappointing” and failed “to match the scale of the challenge the EU faces” on Covid-19 and “the unfolding climate emergency”.
“Instead a small number of countries have decided that electoral politics back home matter more than EU solidarity,” he said, emphasising that MEPs would voice their unhappiness on Thursday.
The deal offers guarantees to EU budget contributor states that EU funds will be spent wisely to cut emissions, boost renewable energy and save energy, according to Climate Action Network Europe.
A “green”-led recovery would help regions dependent on fossil fuel to move away from them, “and allow them to avoid escalating costs of climate change”, it added.
However, subsidies for fossil fuels are still possible, it warned: “Member states now need to draft spending plans fit for the climate crisis, and ban harmful measures such as investments in new fossil gas infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, another environmental group, Transport and Environment, said the plan lacked basic climate safeguards such as a blanket exclusion of fossil fuels.
"We cannot accept the paradox that something called 'Next Generation EU' invests 70 per cent of its funds in an older generation's economy while asking young Europeans to foot the bill," said its director, William Todts.