50% for nature and climate: EU leaders must put sustainability at the core of the EU budget

Putting sustainability at the core of the EU budget © Shutterstock/ArkadyAs EU Heads of State and Government prepare to meet in Brussels today to discuss the political priorities of the EU's next budget, WWF calls for a clear commitment to integrating long-term sustainability across all budget lines.

"The next budget will be a litmus test of the EU's willingness to deliver on its international commitments on climate, environment, biodiversity and sustainable development," said Andrea Kohl, acting Director of the WWF European Policy Office.

"In order to achieve these, a re-balancing of environmental, social and economic aspects is needed, with sustainability mainstreamed into all relevant programmes and instruments. This is why we are calling for a mandatory spending target of 50% for climate and nature."

WWF criticises the favouring of economic aspects over social and environmental matters in the current EU budget, combined with a lack of policy coherence across different sectors. Instead it calls for all programmes and funding instruments of the new budget to be brought in line with international commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate, and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The organisation also pushes for a complete phase-out of environmentally harmful subsidies, and an increase funding for the Financial Instrument to the Environment (LIFE) – the only EU funding instrument for nature conservation - from 0.3% today to at least 1% of the total budget.

"How we spend taxpayers' money matters, and the EU budget must reflect European core values such as democracy, human rights and a high level environmental and climate protection," added Kohl. "This is what citizens care about, and this is what their leaders must deliver."

The debate by EU leaders follows just a day after the European Parliament's lead committee for the EU's future budget has voted in favour of increased spending for climate action, nature conservation and other environment measures.

Notes to editors:

Key WWF asks:

  • Full alignment with international commitments on climate, biodiversity and sustainable development such as the Paris Agreement on Climate, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD);
  • Phase-out subsidies or support of actions that are harmful to the environment, biodiversity or natural resources as foreseen in the Roadmap for a resource efficient Europe;
  • Balance economic, social and environment asks through including a mandatory spending target of 50% for climate and environment, as well as incorporating ex-ante conditionalities and binding earmarking for climate, nature conservation and environment measures across all programmatic and funding instruments ,
  • Increase funding for the Financial Instrument to the Environment (LIFE) from 0.3% today to at least 1% of the total budget; the mid- term evaluation of the instrument showed that LIFE is efficient and provides value for money.

Recommendations for sector specific policies and instruments:

  • Reform the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) towards a fair, effective and efficient farming policy which has as its core the objective to facilitate the transition towards sustainable food and farming systems in Europe. At least 50% of CAP funds should be ring-fenced for dedicated financing of actions related to climate, environment and nature conservation;
  • The principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must guide the use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the next MFF. This includes mainstreaming of climate and environment in EU external financing instruments, and support for the protection of biodiversity in developing countries;
  • Allocate at least the same amount of funding (€6.4 bn) to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and guarantee that all of it is adequately used by Member States. Financial aid should be conditional on sustainable management of the marine environment;
  • Mainstream environmental and climate objectives into financing instruments such as the European Cohesion Fund (CF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Infrastructure projects supported by EU funding must not undermine its climate and biodiversity goals;
  • Extend the existing Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to include and provide financial support to a Trans-European Network for Green Infrastructure (TEN-G) ensuring connectivity and restoration of habitats and ecosystem services in priority areas of EU added value;
  • Facilitate a people-centred and just transition to a low carbon society e.g. through tailored financial support to communities and households, supporting regions depending e.g. on coal to overcome the challenge of transforming their economies;  but also to develop strategies for economic diversification towards sustainable economic activities.

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