The pandemic has accelerated the arrival of a new cycle of crisis and with it the deployment of the European Green Deal, which coincides with the arrival of the historic Next Generation EU funds.
Analysing this context, the Debt Observatory in Globalisation (ODG) has published the book “Green deals in a time of pandemics. The future will be contested now”, by the engineer and researcher Alfons Pérez, which analyses in depth these economic policies and instruments and their intersection with elements such as green growth, digitalisation, extractivism, over-indebtedness (and new austerity measures) and plausible ways out of the economic, social and ecological tsunami that is brewing.
“This is the first time that administrations and states have recognised that the recovery from a crisis must be green,” explains Alfons Pérez.
The EU has on the table the goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050 and to this end has promoted and approved the European Green Deal (EGD); a comprehensive plan of reforms to reorient the European economy towards a green transition. The EGD is the most tangible green deal to date, but it has serious limitations and risks that call into question its effectiveness.
The EGD proposes the possibility of decoupling economic growth and production from energy and materials consumption, generating less waste and emissions. This is the recipe for green growth, but it does not take into account the outsourcing of industrial processes or the impact of imports. Emissions fall within the EU but continue to impact on climate change outside.
“It is not proven that it is possible to continue to grow and at the same time reduce emissions consumption,” says Alfons Pérez.
Another factor at play is the Next Generation EU funds, which will mobilise 750 billion euros in grants and credits, financed by issuing EU debt. The huge availability of public money is pushing for a “green consensus” among institutions such as the OECD, the IMF and the European Commission, with the risk that millions will be channelled into false solutions such as green hydrogen and greenwashing of large mining and oil corporations.
These funds also point to a green recovery based on technology and digitisation, which will dramatically increase the extraction of critical materials such as nickel, cobalt or lithium, ignoring the severe social and environmental impacts that will occur in countries such as the Congo, Indonesia, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Zambia or Australia, among others.
Alfons points out that we are facing “astronomical budgets that are, perhaps, in terms of public investment, the last opportunity to undertake the economic and social transition necessary to address the climate emergency”.
In closing, the book points out some of the keys that the EGD ignores: recognising and respecting biophysical limits, building an economy oriented towards generating well-being, putting jobs that care for life at the centre, redistributing work and reducing working hours, and assuming that our recovery policy cannot be at the expense of other territories.