The National Reconstruction Plans are not so green again

Some projects submitted by EU Member States under the FPA may be implemented at the expense of the environment, non-governmental organizations indicate. Examples are projects in the field of water management, forestry and sustainable energy.




Early June this year. The European Commission has given a positive assessment of the Polish National Plan for Reconstruction and Increasing Immunity (KPO). In addition to Poland, the FPA has submitted a total of 27 EU Member States for evaluation, 25 of which have received a positive assessment from the European Commission and the EU Council.

Reminder: FPA is the basis for using EU financial instruments to support the recovery of economies after the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, i.e. the European Instrument for Reconstruction and Resilience, with a total of 750 billion euros. Of this pool, Poland will have approximately EUR 58 billion at its disposal. This amount consists of EUR 23.9 billion in grants and EUR 34.2 billion in loans – this is almost PLN 250 billion that will be used in the coming years (planned investments should be completed by 2026). At least 37 percent of the funds allocated from the Reconstruction Facility must be allocated to climate transformation, and the full amount must be spent in accordance with the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) principle, ie only on projects that are at least neutral on climate and environmental protection objectives.

Also read: The European Commission approves the Polish reconstruction plan

Assumptions and reality

Representatives of non-governmental organizations point out that “the reconstruction plans in their current form contain many activities that harm nature the most, exacerbate the problem of drought and do not aid climate adaptation”.

– The European Union considers itself a world leader in fighting biodiversity loss, but this was not reflected in the disbursement of the Reconstruction Fund, in particular in the Regulation on the Reconstruction and Increasing Resilience Facility, under which all national reconstruction plans have been developed – indicated in the Bankwatch report, EuroNatur titled Behind the green recovery. How the EU recovery fund does not protect nature and what can still be saved?

Biodiversity, water management, renewable energy

It has been pointed out that some activities of the Member States may harm biodiversity. † As potential threats to biodiversity, we have in particular identified projects in the areas of water management, forestry and renewable energy – explains the Polish Green Network, which prepared the Polish translation of one of the chapters of the report(1) While some of them are certainly much needed and can only be achieved with appropriate safeguards, others appear to be unacceptably harmful to biodiversity or ineffective in achieving targets and should not be pursued. – he adds.

Examples include: projects targeting renewable energy use in the NAPs of Bulgaria and Latvia. According to the report’s authors, they must create “potential conflicts between climate action and biodiversity conservation.” Another example is the forest management projects that Slovenia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Romania have included in their FPAs. As indicated, these are actions that “at first appear successful, although they will probably never achieve their goals, quite the contrary”.

Likewise, water management projects in Hungary, Croatia, Latvia and Poland will support the construction of reservoirs, pumping stations, canals or river regulation in valuable natural areas, including Natura 2000 sites. as a result, the water quality will deteriorate – reports the Polish Green Network.

Also read: What opinions did the KPO project get? The editors of Teraz Środowiska looked at several comments

According to NGOs, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that not all NGOs are subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and where these procedures were carried out – “they were of poor quality, were not independent or were carried out at a late stage, when they could have more real influence on the plan, undermining the meaning of the whole process.”

These reviews are an important element in deciding whether to approve a proposed action. However, their value loses importance if the assessment is only formally performed, without the timely and appropriate involvement of qualified environmental and biodiversity experts, and if they are not completed and considered before approval of recovery plans. – we are reading.

Joanna Spiller: journalist, environmental engineer

footnotes

1 / Translation of the Polish chapter of the report with general conclusions: Behind the green facade of the KPO. How does the European Reconstruction Fund fail to protect nature and what else can be saved?:
https://www.teraz-srodowisko.pl/media/pdf/aktualnosci/12129-Za-zielona-fasada-KPO-raport.pdf

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