English

Suggestions for changing behaviour:         How to spend a lot of money

If someone offered you a million euros to spend on helping to save the environment, how would you spend it? on 20 or so small projects, or all on one big project?

This may seem like a silly question, but it reflects what actually happens. Take for example the Italian NRRP (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) and you will see that the choice has been made to give the money immediately to those who can spend it, and that is powerful industrial groups who already receive all kinds of public funds. Many SMEs will remain on the sidelines because they do not have the ability to go through the bureaucratic processes (often designed to be difficult) that are required in order to access small sums of money. Here’s a concrete example: if the Italian energy multinational puts forward a solar panel project costing 100 million euros, it is more likely to be funded than a small municipality asking for 20,000 euros. In bureaucratic terms, the assessment and approval take more or less the same amount of time. So to spend the money more quickly, the big projects are funded and the small ones go without, even though the latter’s impact would be much more concrete and closer to the needs of the people.

Is this situation typical just of Italy? Unfortunately not. Rather, it is policy for programmes and projects at the European level, as well as for member states. It’s not by chance that the Corporate Europe Observatory has denounced in advance the organization of France’s 6 month presidency, which is due to start in January 2022. In brief, the report states that the preparations for the French Presidency reveal a growing confusion between public interest and private interest. This is due especially to the close collaboration with big French companies, through lobbying, public events and requests for contributions from business associations and focus groups (which are closely linked to the big corporations), with precious little transparency… while civil society and the public in general are kept at arm’s length.

The stakes are high, because legislative proposals and policies that are crucial for Europe’s future will be adopted or developed during the French Presidency, in particular the firming up of the Green Deal, the climate package “Fit for 55”, the regulation of digital technology and the future of recovery funds.