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The Guardian and S&P Global reported that after days of haggling, the European Commission settled on an $864 billion USD recovery fund for the next 3 years, plus a five year budget with a target of spending 30% of that to support the EU’s climate commitments. They plan to pay for this proposal in part with new EU–wide taxes including a plastics tax that will be introduced in 2021 and a proposed tax on polluting imports from non-EU countries. Environmental organizations were uncomfortable with the lack of detail in prior proposals, and with the fact that polluting industries, such as aviation, will still have access to stimulus funds. So will countries like Poland, even though they have not agreed to the EU pledge of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Why This Matters: Activist leader Greta Thunberg immediately criticized the deal as not being good enough. The final version was weakened — earlier versions of the legislation would have mandated that countries make a climate neutrality commitment in order to have access to the stimulus funds, but Poland pushed back. There were also last-minute cuts to two funds that would have been dedicated to sustainable businesses. But in politics, a win is a win and this advances Europe’s green agenda.
What Greta Said
“They are still denying the fact and ignoring the fact that we are facing a climate emergency, and the climate crisis has still not once been treated as a crisis,” Thunberg told the Guardian. “As long as the climate crisis is not being treated as a crisis, the changes that are necessary will not happen.” Yesterday she announced that having been awarded Portugal’s Gulbenkian prize for humanity, she is pledging the entire prize (approx $1.15m) to organizations working to protect the environment and halt climate change. She said, “I see the hope in democracy and in people,” she said. “If people become aware of what is happening then we can accomplish anything, we can put pressure on people in power … if we just decide we have had enough then that will change everything.”
What the EU Leaders Said
European Council President Charles Michel said of the agreement, “This is a good deal. This is a strong deal. And most importantly, this is the right deal for Europe right now. This agreement will be seen as a pivotal moment in Europe’s journey. It will also launch us into the future. It is the first time, the first time in European history that our budget will be linked to our climate objectives.” According to the Guardian, the 27 leaders of Europe met continuously since last Thursday to reach an agreement. The Guardian reported that “Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, said the negotiations, lasting more than 90 hours, had been ‘worth it”’ and that the EU could not be accused this time of doing ‘too little, too late.’”
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