A Green Economic Recovery in Europe

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on how vulnerable our current socio-economic systems are to large shocks. This has been a wake-up call for societies around the world to build long-term resilience. The recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique window of opportunity to not just recover, but to build a sustainable, prosperous future while also addressing persisting social and environmental challenges.

The European Commission has prepared the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), which offers member states EUR 671 billion in new funding to both alleviate the immediate economic challenges, as well as to decarbonize and dematerialize economic sectors and to restore ecosystems, while simultaneously creating good, green jobs for a healthy and just economic recovery. Recognizing the importance of the environment in resilience-building, the European Commission set a requirement for 37% of funding to climate objectives and has set out a framework for excluding certain activities which lock in environmentally destructive measures through the “Do No Significant Harm” principle.

However, there is a significant risk that the associated investments and reforms will underutilize the historic opportunity that the recovery offers for the systemic transformation to a green and just society.

It is in this context that ZOE Institute for Future-fit Economies joins six other consortium partners to engage with decision-makers and policy-makers to design a green recovery process. As part of this project, funded by the MAVA foundation, ZOE Institue is engaged in two work streams: Assessment of the published plans with a newly developed Recovery Index for Systemic Transformation, and engagement with decision makers about the contribution of nature to recovery plans.

ZOE Institute and the New Economics Foundation have developed the Recovery Index for Transformative Change (RITC) to assess the published plans. Rather than aggregating different environmental or economics benchmarks, the index is taking a holistic look at the transformative potential and risks of investments and reforms. It provides a standardized framework in which to assess the contribution of investments and reforms to two important aspects of transformative change in the recovery process: a just transition and the protection of the natural world. It also assesses them against systemic change criteria to explore if they tackle the ‘root causes’ of current environmental and societal crises.

ZOE Institute and the Club of Rome have delivered a series of engagements with policy-makers in Member States as well as in the European Commission to discuss the design of NRRPs for a green and just recovery, as well as how these plans are being assessed. This included a workshop on the assessment of the plans, to engage with policy-makers in the European Commission to unpack challenges around the assessment framework and the key tensions around a designing a nature-positive recovery. The two organisations have also held a series of meetings with Member States on their plans.

Based on the findings from the Recovery Index for Transformative Change, we will offer recommendations to member states on how to improve future implementation by highlighting particular opportunities and risks of the plans. Together with our partners from the project’s consortium – Vivid Economics, Nature4Climate, The Club of Rome, Climate & Sustainability and the Bankwatch Network – we will engage with member states and EU bodies to make the case for a nature-positive recovery through the NRRPs and beyond. Additionally, the consortium’s research will contribute to the public discourse by supporting bottom-up mobilization for a green recovery.

Project partner