Winter is yet to come but the second wave of the coronavirus seems to be already upon us. New cases and a resulting second lockdown could make this crisis the worst economic crisis ever recorded.
However, the coronavirus crisis is just the latest instalment of crises that plague Europe. After the Great Financial Crisis and the Sovereign Debt Crisis, especially the climate crisis concerns Europeans, as a large-scale green transformation would need to take place right now to keep global warming below the 1.5% target.
Thus, the European Commission wants to use the €750bn worth of debt-firepower from the #Next Generation EU (NGEU) proposal, especially the €672.5bn from the #Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), to push Europe on the path of a green transformation. However, the priorities should also be to overcome the coronavirus crisis as fast as possible.
This leads to a trade-off between making the economy sustainable in the long-term which naturally is an enormous task and could take a generation to complete and fighting the pandemic which requires short-term economic stimuli.
But why not combine both goals and resolve the trade-off which would lead to a Win-Win situation for the green transformation and short-term recovery?
Many European cities are cultural heritage sites and are proud of their historic buildings, of which many were built hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, back in the day, the focus was not on building energy-efficient housing.
As a result, old buildings today account for 40% of all emissions in Europe. Nowadays, new construction methods allow for even building zero-carbon housing. But of course, we cannot simply tear down whole cities and build them anew. Thus, old buildings need to be renovated quickly to reduce overall energy consumption. Long-term sustainability – check!
Moreover, many cities across Europe already have large-scale building renovation plans under way. This means that funds channelled to these initiatives can be easily used to scale-up these projects creating jobs and boost the economy in the short-term – no lengthy planning periods needed.
Promote green mobility!
Combustion engines are a relic of the past with no future which was impressively underpinned by the Volkswagen scandal. It is not a secret that public and private transport infrastructure need to change for a green transformation to succeed.
First, public transportation needs to become greener which could be achieved by increasing pre-existing infrastructure like railways or bicycle lanes. Moreover, through a more frequent bus and train service, more people will refrain from using cars. Nonetheless, private transportation will not disappear as there will always be places where public transportation systems are weak.
Therefore, sustainable drive systems need to be promoted and further developed. More research and more construction will also boost the economy and lead to more job creation. And again, projects to do exactly that are already underway in many European countries. These projects could advance and be implemented way faster with European money.
Invest in renewable energies!
But all these measures, be it new trains or electric drive systems, need green energy to be completely sustainable. Fortunately, renewable power plants are already on the rise in Europe and plans to construct more are currently in progress. With the help of the RRF, this process could be sped up having the same positive short-term impact on the economy and work force as described above.
What’s more, distributing renewable energy efficiently across Europe will also be key to unlocking its full potential. There will always be days when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow in one part of Europe but in another it does.
These regions should then be able to export their green energy to the regions where green energy production is low. For this purpose, European electricity grids should become more interconnected by building more power lines between European countries.
Find the full policy brief here: https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/en/publications/publication/did/how-to-combine-recovery-with-resilience-in-europe-en