The Debt Observatory in Globalisation (ODG) is publishing today the book "Green deals in a time of pandemics. The future will be contested now", by the engineer and researcher Alfons Pérez.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the emergence of a new phase in the multi-faceted crisis we’re living in, aggravating global challenges of the 21st century like climate change and the rise of inequalities.
In parallel, massive economic recovery plans - including the €750 billion NextGenerationEU - and the prospect of a green recovery are providing additional financial and political firepower to the European Green Deal (EGD).
The book "Green deals in a time of pandemics. The future will be contested now" provides an in depth analysis of the economic policies and instruments underpinning the EGD.
"This is the first time that administrations and states have recognised that the recovery from a crisis must be green," explains Alfons Pérez.
The EU is planning to become climate neutral by 2050 and to this end has built the EGD - a comprehensive plan to reorient the European economy towards a green transition. The EGD is the most tangible green deal to date, but it has serious limitations and risks that call into question its effectiveness.
The book delves into the challenges and risks around supporting an unsustainable growth model, increasing extraction to obtain the critical raw materials required by the green and digital transition, and over-indebtedness leading to the come-back of austerity measures.
For instance, the EGD proposes to decouple economic growth and production from energy and materials consumption, generating less waste and emissions. This is the recipe for green growth, but it does not take into account the outsourcing of industrial processes or the impact of imports.
"It is not proven that it is possible to continue to grow and at the same time reduce emissions consumption," says Alfons Pérez.
Massive injections of public money into the economy is taking place at European level, especially under the NextGenerationEU which will mobilise €750 billion in grants and loans, thanks to the issuance of common EU debt. In this context, large corporations and financiers are portraying themselves as key actors in the new green agenda in order to capture the lion’s share of the massive public resources made available to finance the “European Green Deal” and counter economic recession. Blank cheques to polluters and risks of greenwashing are part of this quickly evolving picture.
Aiming at a green recovery based on technology and digitisation will dramatically increase the extraction of critical materials such as nickel, cobalt or lithium, ignoring the severe social and environmental impacts that will occur in exporting countries.
Alfons Pérez highlights that "this astronomical wave of public investments in the name of economic recovery is perhaps the last opportunity to undertake the economic and social transition necessary to address the climate emergency".
In closing, the book explores potential ways out of the economic, social and ecological tsunami that is brewing, stressing the need to respect biophysical limits, build an economy oriented towards the generation of well-being, prioritise jobs that care for life, redistribute work and reduce working hours, and recognise that our recovery policy cannot come at the expense of other territories.
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