BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders have agreed that the bloc’s coronavirus economic recovery plan should take heed of its aim to fight climate change.
Following a six-hour video conference, the 27 EU leaders agreed late on Thursday to coordinate a coronavirus economic recovery plan.
Although the details of the plan itself still have to be worked out, a statement said they had agreed that it should be consistent with the “green transition”, the phrase the EU uses to describe the aim of reducing emissions that heat the planet.
The EU’s executive commission wants its 27 member states to sign up at a summit in June to plans to make the entire bloc greenhouse gas neutral by 2050. So far, Poland is the only holdout.
Investors and environmental groups are seeking assurances that, as the economic fallout from coronavirus sucks up funding and political energy, Brussels will not lose sight of its climate change goals.
Poland has warned that the pandemic will make EU climate targets harder to reach.
A global coalition of more than 300 climate change campaign groups urged governments on Thursday to use any coronavirus economic rescue packages to help accelerate a transition to a low-carbon future.
“Choices being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come,” May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, a global climate campaign group which originated on U.S. college campuses, said in a statement.
With governments pouring money into the economy at levels unseen since World War Two, many politicians, economists and campaigners say the measures should be used to accelerate a shift away from planet-warming coal, oil and gas.
The coronavirus crisis has proved governments can act in response to a crisis – a lesson that they should use to tackle climate change, said Andrew Parry, head of sustainable investment at Newton Investment Management said.
“While the immediate response of the authorities has been to rightly limit the social fall-out from the current crisis, it is nonetheless an opportunity to secure a healthier and more resilient future for the environment that should not be missed.”
Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels, Matthew Green in London, Simon Jessop in London; Editing by Peter Graff