The European Union (EU) post-COVID-19 investment and reform programme, the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), has been hailed as novel and ambitious, both as a fiscal instrument and as a lever for accelerating progress towards EU climate commitments. Yet, its design also exhibits strong path dependency, drawing on existing processes and commitments. Adapting theories of institutional change and models of hard/soft governance, we argue that the RRF is an example of significant yet gradual change – of evolution rather than revolution – taking place via layering and conversion of existing frameworks, and alteration of their logics of action. We show how the RRF repurposes the European Semester and track continuity and change in climate policy, a key priority area. Our findings suggest that the literature on institutional change should give greater consideration to the interplay between layering and conversion as a mechanism of gradual yet transformative evolution.