“There is no world of yesterday to go back to, but a world of tomorrow to swiftly give birth to.”
Government of Italy (2021). Recovery and Resilience Plan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wakeup call for societies around the world to see how vulnerable we all are to large-scale shocks, and in parallel this has exposed the weaknesses in our existing systems and structures to protect people and planet. There is an opportunity for responses to the pandemic to deliver a sustainable recovery and build a resilient future. However, our focus must be on building a prosperous, sustainable, resilient and just future and not on reconstructing the past.
Against this backdrop, it is vital that Member States not only tackle the short-term solutions that will solve problems today, but design policies, measures and reforms which create systemic change for sustainable and resilient societies that can adapt to or mitigate future crises. These solutions need to benefit people and economies while also protecting nature and biodiversity, as climate change and biodiversity loss are threatening the essential foundations to life.
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.
These principles and conditions present a new challenge for policymakers who will need to identify policies that achieve multiple objectives at once rather than siloed solutions. In addition, Member States should ensure that these policies facilitate a systemic shift towards a regenerative, distributive and resilient economy rather than stabilising the status quo. What is missing, however, is guidance on what policy measures are able to address this challenge and how to design them.
This policy brief aims to demonstrate how the conditions from the European Commission can be used to boost creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to design policies that support both people and nature in recovery; policies that contribute to climate objectives while also doing no significant harm to any of the above. This brief engages directly with guidance from the Commission by demonstrating how to utilise this guidance to deliver systemic change through the recovery process. We offer examples of ten interventions from Annex VI of the legislation of the RRF, the application of the DNSH principle and two examples of reforms which involve financial instruments to show how this approach can support a resilient recovery.