Bailouts? Yes, for people and the planet!

Call for action by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF, European Environmental Bureau, and others, available here


To the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament and national leaders


We call upon EU and national leaders to tackle the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with solidarity, courage and innovation.

We do not want a return to business as usual, to an economic model which has exacerbated social inequalities, jeopardised our health, and driven our planet’s climate and nature to the brink of collapse. Instead, now is the time to radically and rapidly make our economies greener, fairer, and more resilient to future shocks.

We demand the establishment of the biggest green investment programme the world has ever seen – backed up by all available EU financial tools to finance a recovery that is green and just.

This call is based on a statement signed by Europe’s leading environmental NGOs [1].

Why is this important?

A quarter of jobs in the EU are at risk, and nearly a million jobs have been lost just in Spain due to the pandemic. [2] This is only a hint of the tragedy still to come – already here for so many of us unable to afford basics such as accommodation. [3]

As the European Commission puts together a recovery plan, polluting industries (like airlines and coal-burning plants) are elbowing their way to the front of the queue to get support – thanks to their enormous lobbying power. They want the biggest piece of the pie… and to use this crisis to weaken environmental standards. [4]

This recovery plan is being negotiated right now. Let’s make it clear it must prioritise the tragedies of people before those of airlines, car, plastic and other polluting industries. Let’s make it clear that economic recovery cannot be at the expense of a healthy environment: pollution makes coronavirus deadlier. [5]

The Marshall Plan-like scheme [6] to face the economic crisis cannot replicate the mistakes of the bailouts following the 2008 financial crisis: banks and corporations shouldn’t be saved at the expense of workers, people and the planet.

But this time is different.

Just before coronavirus hit the world, the European Commission was in the midst of putting together a European Green Deal: a package of measures to guide Europe’s transition into a just and green economy.

The current economic downturn that will soon deepen demonstrates the profound need for such a package: and in fact, 17 EU countries including Germany, France, Italy and Spain are already pushing the Commission to base the recovery plan on the Green Deal! [7] But this master plan needs to be not only fully executed, but also boosted and expanded.

If we don’t take action the Commission will only hear from polluting industries and the battle between EU governments on whether to keep the Green Deal or not. They need to hear from citizens too. The Green Deal is a good starting point, but it’s far from enough.

For it to be a solid enough recovery package with teeth to tackle the health, economic and climate those crises, a true green deal would:


  • Put people’s well-being at the heart of the crisis response and deliver social benefits and protect workers’ rights through a ‘just transition for all’,
  • Fully implement and boost the European Green Deal to rework the economy as is necessary to put well-being back at the centre of the European project, protect people from shocks like COVID-19 and to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss at EU, national and international levels. Strengthen and continue the implementation of targets, strategies and laws announced in the European Green Deal and in particular strengthen the social dimension.
  • In high-carbon and other potentially polluting sectors such as intensive agriculture, make support to companies conditional on their alignment with environmental and climate objectives; no bailouts should be given to unviable or polluting industries that have no future in tomorrow’s economy.
  • Establish a sizable Green and Fair Recovery Fund backed up by all available EU financial tools to finance the green and just recovery, including an expanded MFF and its spending programmes that dedicates at least 50% to climate and biodiversity targets, new funds, the use of the European Stability Mechanism and so-called ‘eurobonds’.
  • Guide public and private investment throughout the recovery using the EU’s taxonomy to accelerate the shift from polluting into green sectors; similarly, the European Investment Bank should bring its lending policies in line with the European Green Deal objectives by the end of 2020.


In short, we call on our leaders to demonstrate unity and vision in this crisis by putting forward the biggest green investment programme the world has ever seen. They must resist the temptation to give in to quick ‘fixes’ and rescue an unsustainable economy – one that is socially unjust, polluting, heating our planet, depleting natural resources, and putting the health and wellbeing of its population at risk.

Instead, let’s use this moment to build something new, something much better: a truly sustainable economy, which is carbon-neutral, circular and fair – where people and nature thrive. This way, we can create high quality green jobs, tackle climate change, restore nature, and make our economies and societies more resilient in the long run.

Now is the time to unite to put Europe firmly on the path to a green and fair economy. Together, we can achieve this!