Planning a future model key, write Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O’Sullivan
Only a few weeks ago we were welcoming the European Green Deal, heralding its potential to have life-changing impacts on people and the planet.
Over these recent sad times, the conversation on climate change and biodiversity has been swept aside as the world focuses on saving lives. But early post-recovery discussions have arrived at the topic of a green recovery and the European Green Deal remains more than ever the basis for our future development model.
We in the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament have launched a green recovery paper, ahead of the European Commission's recovery plan launch. We are examining the current crisis, looking ahead to coming out the other side and asking what world do we want to return to?
A green recovery presents us with a short and long-term vision of sustainable jobs for life, with simultaneous improvements socially, environmentally and economically.
It's not about getting back to 'business as usual', to an existence where many struggled to get by in a world endangered by escalating pollution and waste.
A green recovery is one that works for all, where we can move into a fairer, more equal, more socially nurturing world and economy where nobody will be left behind.
One of the big shocks of the current crisis has been the realisation that the provision of much of our most basic needs in areas such as health and food, currently relies on fragile, unsustainable systems.
In health, the lack of stock of protective equipment and medicines was worsened by limited EU production of, in particular, masks and tests.
In food production and fishing, areas particularly relevant to Ireland, the crisis revealed the weaknesses of a system built on highly interconnected and specialised global supply chains.
Diversification and getting back to a more locally based model of food provision needs to happen. We need to reduce long supply chains by supporting the 'farm-to-fork strategy', seeing reductions in pesticide and fertiliser use, a revised Sustainable Use Pesticide Directive and in the future, a new CAP.
At an economic level a green recovery would implement fundamental reform of the current model, by rethinking the economy to ensure it serves the people, with massive sustainable investments paving the way to a sustainable, resilient job-rich economic recovery.
Companies, including financial services, receiving public financial support would align their economic activities to the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5C.
Just transition plans would be implemented to support workers as they move away from unsustainable practices damaging to the environment.
On the building front, we would see a solar rooftop programme and property owners incentivised to replace fossil-based heating systems.
Public authorities would be encouraged to retain the extra cycle lanes set up during the Covid-19 crisis and extend their coverage.
Coal and fossil-fuel-related direct and indirect subsidies would be stopped, with more favourable financial conditions introduced to support the needed transition.
Already, the impacts of the virus are being borne disproportionately by poor people.
In the recovery we want, the cost of a massive sustainable investment plan would not be borne by the most vulnerable, but instead by those who can afford it.
Public services, particularly in the care and healthcare sectors, would be supported with appropriate funding and everyone would receive at least a poverty-proof minimum income.
Significantly more public investment would go into health, education, access to culture, social housing to name but a few.
Instead of refurbishing a system that has shown its weakness, the EU would revitalise the economy through legally binding targets and targeted investments.
Our re-emergence will be difficult. We will grieve. For some the pain will be acute. Many will be under severe financial pressure.
In many ways the current crisis has left us feeling helpless and with little control. We do still have options though.
In a Europe and an Ireland where a transformative social green recovery was under way, we would mitigate against the even more precarious future that unchecked carbon emissions will cause.
Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O'Sullivan are MEPs for the Green Party