EU recovery plans – a threat to nature
The European Commission has claimed that the Recovery and Resilience Facility (EUR 672.5 billion) will ensure a ‘green recovery’ throughout Europe. Yet not only is it failing to protect and restore nature, it will likely even increase harm to it, according to a new Bankwatch and EuroNatur report published today.
2 June 2022
Credits: WWF Polska
The report reveals the failure of EU recovery funds to address the biodiversity crisis – one of the biggest of our time – and exposes biodiversity damaging investments and reforms from the recovery plans of nine central and eastern European countries.
The alarming state of biodiversity in the EU calls for immediate action, and the vast amount of EU funds now available provide a unique opportunity to address this crisis. The EU Biodiversity Strategy states that a minimum of EUR 20 billion per year is needed to address biodiversity loss. Yet less than 1 per cent of recovery fund spending has been allocated to nature protection or restoration projects, critical to achieving the objectives of the strategy. Even worse, some of the projects from the recovery plans are likely to cause further damage to biodiversity.
In Bulgaria and Latvia, projects aimed at increasing renewable energy highlight the potential conflict between climate action and biodiversity, underlining the need for sufficient environmental safeguards. This issue could have been avoided by better planning and by taking into consideration the expertise delivered by civil society organisations. The Latvian government is simplifying permitting procedures which allow wind farms in forests, and snuck support for such projects into its recovery plan after the public consultation and ‘do no significant harm’ assessment had already been carried out.
Similarly, water management projects in Hungary, Croatia, Latvia and Poland will support building reservoirs, pumping stations, channels, or rivers’ regulation, often in highly sensitive areas, including Natura 2000 sites. These threaten to turn rivers and streams into dead channels and ponds devoid of life, degrading water quality as a consequence. The cases from Slovenia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Romania show how forestry projects that appear positive at first sight will instead most likely encourage even more intensive forest cutting.
Many of these projects were planned and negotiated behind closed doors with no information on their location and without proper assessment of their impact on nature. Potential harm to biodiversity cannot be reverted and these examples show why and how EU funding must be biodiversity-proofed.
Daniel Thomson, EU policy officer for biodiversity with CEE Bankwatch Network, said: ‘Billions of euros of public recovery funds are now in the process of being disbursed, yet we still don’t know the full details of what’s actually being financed. At first glance, many projects may appear harmless – or even beneficial – to nature. But digging a little deeper reveals a new wave of biodiversity-damaging funding that will have consequences for years to come.’
Thomas Freisinger, EU policy officer with EuroNatur, said: ‘Member States were given a unique opportunity to make this recovery a turning point to address biodiversity loss. Yet, business as usual was chosen. The Commission needs to create the incentives and safeguards that are necessary for a real shift.’
For more information contact
EU policy officer for biodiversity
CEE Bankwatch Network
EU policy officer
The report ‘Behind the ‘green recovery’: how the EU recovery fund is failing to protect nature and what can still be saved is available here.
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