European Council President Charles Michel is proposing €274 billion (US $296 billion) for climate-related initiatives as part of the European Union’s (EU) budget for 2021-2027, according to Reuters.
Leaders from across the EU assemble every seven years to agree on the size of the bloc’s budget for the next seven-year period and, crucially, where and how the budget will be spent. This week, leaders are assembling in Brussels to debate spending priorities from 2020 to 2027.
Michel is suggesting an increase in climate spending compared to the previous budget, to accelerate the bloc’s larger goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
His current proposal for climate spending — which will act as a springboard for EU leaders to discuss this week — represents 25% of the EU’s total budget and would be spent on various programs in different regions.
“Today climate change is threatening our very existence,” Michel said in a speech from last year, highlighting the EU’s commitment to climate action. “We must address it with laser focus. We must shift into high gear. We must lead. And inspire others to act.”
The main area of climate spending would be on agriculture, if it’s agreed upon during the special budget meeting of the European Council, which kicked off on Thursday. Michel proposes dedicating a third of the climate budget to the Common Agricultural Policy, and prioritizing 40% of this spending on climate-related issues, Reuters reports.
Scientists believe that transforming global agriculture — to focus on restoring landscapes, improving soil quality, planting diverse crops, and reducing meat production — can play a significant role in combatting climate change.
The New York Times recently uncovered widespread corruption in EU agricultural spending, which could hamper climate objectives.
The budget also proposes taking a harder line against countries, such as Poland, that refuse to pursue carbon neutrality by denying them funds.
The European Investment Bank could also receive €100 billion in additional capital to disburse toward climate projects.
“Bold climate action could trigger trillions of euros in economic benefits,” Michel said in the speech. “And create millions of jobs in the sustainable energy sector alone. We must seize this opportunity.”
The budget is still undergoing negotiation and could change in the months ahead, but the focus on climate change in Michel’s starting-point proposal reflects the urgency of the issue.
The UN warns that unless countries begin to rapidly curb their carbon emissions, then a “climate apartheid” could emerge, with global inequality soaring. It’s currently unclear whether the EU would be committing more overseas development aid to climate action, including funding the UN’s Green Climate Fund.
Global Citizen is calling on all EU members to commit to hitting the internationally-agreed target of spending at least 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) to overseas development aid, a target that has been the goal of international development for decades.
Any climate action is necessarily global in its impact, but developing countries in particular need support in adapting to growing threat of climate change impact.
Citizens throughout the EU have demanded bold climate action from their leaders and this budget suggests an increased willingness to act.
“I want Europe to be the first climate-neutral continent,” Michel said in the speech. “To achieve this, we need to transform our economy and our society. And mobilize private and public investments.”
“Climate change is not the end of the story,” he added. “Human history shows that obstacles are often unique opportunities to make progress, innovation, new technologies, a better quality of life. This is what we need now. Urgently.”