Bankwatch Mail 60
Bankwatch Mail | 8 August 2014
In Bankwatch Mail 60 we take a look at how the new Member States spending plans for EU funds are shaping up. Besides some signs of hope, we find still a notable lack of long-term sustainable strategies of central and eastern European countries.
And while former British prime minister Tony Blair’s new advisory role for a consortium led by oil and gas giant BP is drawing criticism, the European Investment Bank has a real chance to champion EU climate policy – if it follows a few sensible suggestions.
- EU member states and the European Commission, after what has felt like a marathon two-year process, are now engaged in finalising agreements on the EU’s Structural and Cohesion Funds (ESIF) investment strategies and spending plans for the 2014 -2020 EU budget period.
Where the 11 ‘new’ member states of central and eastern Europe (CEE) are concerned, their approach to economic and societal development via the EU funds is proving to be a double-edged sword: while their spending plans for climate action is set to increase ten-fold in comparison to the 2007-2013 period, and the ‘greenest Cohesion Policy legislation ever’ prevents them from committing major environmental crimes, a reasonable long-term investment strategy, and financing, to achieve the decarbonisation of these economies by 2050 is noticeably lacking.
- The European Investment Bank, the biggest multilateral public bank in the world by lending volume and the self-styled ‘EU bank’, has recently announced that it will be reviewing its approach to climate change in the coming months. According to comments made by EIB vice-president Philippe de Fontaine Vive to civil society representatives, “The EIB wants to position itself between this October’s anticipated EU 2030 climate agreement and the Paris COP 21 meeting in December 2015”.
- Mathieu Fichter, Team Leader on ‘Sustainable Growth’ in the European Commission’s Regional and Urban Policy directorate (DG Regio), and Markus Trilling, EU Funds coordinator for Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe, discuss and reflect on the challenges and opportunities that are being thrown up as we enter the final negotiating stages in the programming process for the EU budget 2014-2020.
- Bankwatch’s Czech co-ordinator Ondřej Pašek takes time out from EU funds programming documentation digging to describe just one little alarming discovery.
- Whether at the global level with the United Nations Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, the European level with the Environment Action Programme to 2020, or at the national level, a great deal of effort is being made to promote, develop and expand sustainable lifestyles and production. Such efforts should be tailor-made for receiving financial support from the EU funds.
- The Czech government’s plan to phase out part of its lignite-fired power plant fleet by 2025 has hit the news recently with total annual power output from this climate-damaging source set to drop from 40 TWh in 2015 to 18 TWh by 2035.
However the increased electricity consumption projected in the very same planning scenarios, that over time will eliminate the country’s current high energy export share and shift it instead onto an import dependency path, places an unfortunate question mark over just how serious the Czech Republic is about its transition to becoming an energy efficient, low-carbon economy.
- Some Czech projects proposed for EU funding are already sticking out as ‘white elephant’ investments. As the final spending decisions for 2014-2020 shape up, Bankwatch will be keeping a close eye on the likely stampede of similar project concepts all across central and eastern Europe.
- As Latvia’s authorities look to finalise EU funds allocations for the 2014-2020 period, the nation’s energy supply – where it is sourced from and how it is being used – remains the elephant in the room. As in every economy, energy is a crucial sector, with significant influence over the overall national economy and its development. An ambition and a challenge for Latvia is how to improve its energy independence, and quickly.
- The hiring of former British prime minister Tony Blair to advise a BP-led consortium pushing forward with plans to pump Caspian gas from Azerbaijan to Europe has bumped the ‘Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline’ (ECMP) into western media coverage and lead to criticism of yet another unsavoury Blair consultancy.
- EU funds for the 2014-2020 budgetary period look set to further fuel the massive over-exploitation of biomass for energy use in Slovakia. Formally, both the European Commission and the Slovak Ministry of Economy have announced the introduction of sustainability rules to govern the use of new EU money. Yet only the final phase of EU funds programming – now under way – will determine whether or not this latest injection of EU investment money will recklessly contribute to the destruction of Slovakia’s key natural treasure – its forests.