Why the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan is off-topic for the climate justice movement – Sinan Eden

§1. Intro: In December 2019, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal, which in fact should be re-baptized as “The European Old Brown Deal” corresponding to the lack of greenness and dealness in it.

In January 2020, the Commission launched the 24-page Sustainable Europe Investment Plan as the “investment pillar of the European Green Deal”.

§2. Agreement: To give due credit, I would like to underline that I fully agree with first half of the third sentence on the first paragraph of page 11 of the document, which reads “Public authorities may also need to invest in when market actors cannot step in, in particular when the social and environmental benefits are not reflected in private return”.

Having said that, I disagree profoundly with the spirit of the document, the remaining ninety-nine paragraphs, the ten text boxes, the four figures, the rest of the above-mentioned sentence as well as the rest of the paragraph.

In fact, I would like to argue that the rest of the document is in contradiction with this half-sentence.

The climate crisis itself is the failure of market mechanisms of the decades-long climate summits handing over the issue to the “market actors” who don’t “step in” because civilization collapse is not “reflected in” the spreadsheets presented in the shareholders’ meetings. If you are presenting a detailed recipe of how to prepare a vegetable soup and in passing mention that the bottom of the pot has a large hole, I would rather you started with this information and adjust everything else accordingly, because now we already peeled the potatoes and it’s a little awkward to put them in the pot/tube.

§3. Money: The Commission states that, to reach its self-declared energy targets, an additional investment of EUR 260 billion a year needed by 2030, excluding transport infrastructure investments.

It then goes on to explain how it will raise EUR 1 trillion in investments until 2030, most of which is supposed “happen” through private financing with the public sector keeping the investment risks.1

As it stands, the Commission says that it needs EUR 260 billion x 10 = EUR 2.6 trillion to run its own plan, and then says it will provide maybe 40% of that if the private sector behaves well. It is a puzzle for the reader to discover how this “pillar” is supposed to carry the Deal.

§4. Besides Public Private Partnerships (which pop up over and over throughout the text), the plan further says that if energy companies retrofit buildings then the states would pay for the revenue loss due to less consumption (section 4.3.2), that the Commission is ready to compensate coal companies for their loss of profit in the transition (section 4.3.4) and the InvestEU Fund will also finance gas infrastructure projects (section 6.2).

§5. Just Transition: Figure 3 describes where this money would come from. One big block is the European Union Budget, another is the InvestEU Fund’s indirect contribution. Then there is a floating box called the Just Transition Mechanism.2 This box intersects with other blocks that have numbers in them, but the box itself also has a number in it. It seems that this double-counting was the only way the Commission found in order to reach the round 1 trillion value.

In short, either the Commission is having serious problems with the concept of a “pillar”, or they are trying to signal us that everything is about to collapse.

§6. Next steps: Some parts of this document are likely outdated as the COVID-19 crisis took over agendas and rescheduled many negotiations. However, its spirit is maintained in the new plans and therefore I would like to suggest that the general conclusion remains valid:

The European Green Deal is definitely European. But it’s not Green. And it doesn’t even pretend to be New. More importantly, it’s not a Deal. It’s a European Green More-Of-The-Same. It’s a European Green Chitchat. It’s a European Green By-The-Way. It’s a European Green Oh-,-About-That. It’s a European Green No-Big-Deal.

From a climate justice movement perspective, we may as well act like they did absolutely nothing besides a convoluted series of complex diplomatic conversations on whether we should drive over the cliff with a speed of 100 km/h or 101 km/h .

The Sustainable Europe Investment Plan is not a relevant policy document for the climate justice movement.

1 To get a sense, compare with the EUR 750 billion EU Recovery Plan that the European Council managed to discuss, write, edit, approve and ratify in just a few months after the COVID-19 outbreak.

2 The fluidity of the Just Transition Mechanism box is telling as the entire concept of justice is rather flabby throughout the text.

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