Green MEP Grace O'Sullivan argues a European Green New Deal can be the motor for the global economic recovery after Covid-19 and help build a more equal society afterward.
When Ursula von der Leyen took up the mantle as head of the European Commission late last year, her opening political gambit was to launch the flagship European Green Deal.
The deal, which contains a raft of measures aimed at tackling the climate emergency, was a fitting response to the ecological crisis and a global groundswell of support for action on climate and biodiversity.
In recent weeks and months, as the world faced the (still ongoing) health emergency, the conversation moved to the more pressing matter of saving lives in the immediate term.
As we now dare to envision a post-Covid-19 recovery, inspired political leaders at a national and international level want to continue pushing forward with a recovery that embraces the Green principles, targets, and commitments outlined in the European Green Deal.
Reassuringly, as we start to plan for a post-Covid-19 economic recovery, Ursula von der Leyen has publicly repeated the Commission’s commitment to its ambitious Green Deal.
Nobody wants to move from one catastrophic health crisis for humankind into another. A Green economic recovery and transition into a carbon neutral planet where society and the environment thrive in a more socially just, equal, and healthy world, is not a utopian or privileged vision, it’s a life-saving strategy.
This week we are engaging in a remote plenary session for members of the European Parliament, where MEPs from throughout Europe will come together online for an intense few days of debate and voting on various issues.
The European Commission will launch their overdue Recovery Plan soon. Ahead of its launch we continue to push the agenda of a Green recovery.
Europe needs to launch a huge investment plan and engage in out-of-box thinking to avoid a protracted crisis. Over the few days of plenary sessions I’ve been examining the notion of a Green recovery in the context of the upcoming launch of the Multi-annual Financial Framework -MFF-.
The MFF, which is set every seven years, is the EU’s long-term budget, obviously hugely important, particularly in these challenging, economically precarious times.
A strong (ie, big) MFF can play a key part in adequately resourcing a Green recovery from the current crisis. Nobody wants to see a return to the austerity measures introduced in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.
With the current round of MFF negotiations behind schedule, and some divisions emerging between those, including Ireland, that want more EU spending and those that want less, the pressure is on to urgently move forward in finding ways to kickstart a sustainable economic recovery.
Opinion is divided around how best to fund recovery on a Europe-wide scale.
While the Eurozone bailout fund — the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — could possibly be called upon to provide assistance in the form of loans to EU member states or to provide capital to banks in difficulty, we in the Greens/EFA (the European Parliament grouping myself and my Green Party colleague, Dublin MEP Ciarán Cuffe, are members of) join many others in calling for mutualisation in the form of some sort of recovery bonds or ‘coronabonds’.
Essentially, recovery or coronabonds are joint/mutualised or common debt issued to member states of the EU by the European Investment Bank and undertaken collectively with all member states of the EU.
This proposal has cross-party support in Ireland and it’s worth noting the president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, has also urged the EU to consider the issuing of coronabonds.
So while, in the immediate term, we Green MEPs are calling for no additional national debts, long-term or perpetual bonds, grants and no loans (or as little as possible), we are simultaneously encouraging international solidarity, looking at the bigger picture and basing our projections around moving away from business as usual and transitioning to a fairer, more localised, socially just model aligned with the Paris Agreement and putting biodiversity, fighting inequalities, gender, etc, at the heart of all decision-making around our economic recovery.
We in the Greens/EFA recently launched a €5trn recovery paper, a short- and long-term vision of sustainable jobs for life, with simultaneous improvements socially, environmentally and economically.
It’s an action plan for a Green recovery that will, we are confident, complement the upcoming international recovery plans.
The Green economic recovery we envisage would see greater diversification and getting back to a more locally-based model of agriculture and fishing. It would involve reform of the current economic model to make it one that serves the people rather than the reverse.
It would see a sustainable, resilient job-rich economy, with just transition plans supporting workers as they move from unsustainable practices that are environmentally damaging.
We would see public services and areas such as education and social housing receive adequate funding. Everyone would receive at least a poverty-proof minimum income.
A Europe undergoing a transformative social and Green economic recovery would mitigate the catastrophic future that unchecked carbon emissions will cause. We must take steps now, or the climate and biodiversity emergency will further worsen.
Speaking of economic recovery recently, Ursula Von der Leyen spoke of a Europe that would ‘bounce back better’ from the pandemic. The Green Deal, she said, would be our ‘motor for the recovery’.
I concur. These types of action are, ultimately, the essence of a recovery that is focused not just on giving us the ability to get back on our feet economically, but something even more fundamental — around ensuring that humankind has the ability to survive and (the icing on the cake) even thrive, today and into the future.
Grace O’Sullivan is a Green Party MEP for Ireland South