When it comes to tackling climate change, the EU has always been eager to talk the talk. In 2011, the Commission vowed to spend a fifth of its upcoming budget on 'climate action'. Last year, it went even further: it said that one euro in every four – or 320 billion euros (£290bn) – was going towards dealing with climate change. But a damning review from the European court of auditors suggests the EU might not be walking the walk on this issue.
The biggest contribution to the EU climate spending target (100 billion euros (£90bn)) comes from agriculture. But subsistence payments to farmers are included in this vast number (as long as the farmer getting the cash meets some basic standards, which most farmers do). As a result, it says the EU 'continues to overestimate the contribution of certain common agricultural policy schemes to tackling climate change'. What's more, the report says that rather than tackling climate change, 'some expenditure in agriculture and cohesion policies could speed up climate change'. In short, it seems unlikely that the use of this cash really passes the 'Greta test'.
Another trick which the report reveals is the arguably dubious way in which climate expenditure is actually determined. Three categories for spending are used: 100 per cent – which is given to EU funding with a 'significant contribution to climate objectives' – 40 per cent – for 'funding with a moderate contribution' – and 0 per cent – for funding 'with no or an insignificant contribution to climate objectives'. Fair enough, you might think. But the problem lies in the fact that the Commission is able to round up figures under this system. This 'may result in overstating estimates' when it comes to spending on climate change, the report says.
Elsewhere, the report says that 'our analysis of Member State rural development programmes...showed that the Commission was overestimating their contribution to climate action by more than 40 per cent, or almost 24 billion euros (£21bn)'.
Back in March, EU president Ursula von der Leyen said 'it is high time to act' on tackling climate change. The EU would lead by example, she insisted. Warm words – or just a lot of hot air?