Rudy De Leeuw: "The finance-climate pact is a necessity, but also an opportunity for Europe"

Rudy De Leeuw, member of the EESC, rapporteur of the opinion on the European finance-climate pact voted in the plenary session in October 2018, affirmed during a meeting on 8 November with journalists that Europe needs to do more in terms of budget and investments to fight the climate change and its effects. But far from being a burden, this challenge has also a positive side: "The finance-climate pact is a necessity, but also an opportunity for Europe". 

The opinion drafted by Rudy De Leeuw lays down a set of recommendations for the next EU multiannual financial framework (2021/2027), including the need to allocate 40% of EU's global budget to fight climate change in order to reach the 2030 targets. In his view, these budgetary efforts must be seen not only as a contribution to a sustainable economy, but also as a way to create a new project for the EU: "We have to give Europe a new purpose, a new hope, especially to young people". In making such a proposal, the EESC is the most ambitious EU institution when the Commission is proposing only 25% of the EU budget to be devoted to climate action.  

Rudy De Leeuw also stressed that the fight against climate change has to have a social dimension: "Both social and environmental aspects of the Paris agreements must be taken into account". He gave examples to show that the transition towards a low-carbon economy can help to create new quality jobs and increase productivity, particularly in fields such as the mining sector or the production of batteries, where the return on investment of environmentally friendly projects can reach 100%.

According to Rudy De Leeuw, the EESC is supportive to a finance-climate pact aimed at ensuring the financing of the necessary transition towards a sustainable Europe, which is "an opportunity to create new quality jobs and to drive a modernization of European industry". He also stressed the need to find the most effective ways in terms of taxation to reach Paris Agreements goals, without excluding a carbon tax.

Along the same lines, Rudy De Leeuw affirmed that the EU should stop financing industries that are counterproductive in terms of environment, which means putting an end to subsidies to fossil fuels that still apply in many member States. In his view, this shouldn't have a negative impact for workers: "We should never eliminate jobs without having other jobs to offer; the modernization of European industry must not be done the American way, without clear alternatives for workers". The EU has tools to face these situations, such as the regional funds or the cohesion funds, and is better prepared than the US to face this transition without a social cost.

On the financing of this transition, Rudy De Leeuw declared that the EESC wants the European Investment Bank (EIB) to become "the financing agent of the sustainable development". This could be done by granting the EIB an enlarged access to the European Central Bank asset purchase programme, which would allow the EIB to take more risks financing projects related with the energy transition, ecological mobility and innovation.

The EESC voted the opinion drafted by Rudy De Leeuw in view of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) that will take place in Katowice, Poland, from 3 to 14 December. The EESC hopes that this Conference will deliver ambitious outcomes and have a positive impact in the fight against climate change. Rudy De Leew will take part in a seminar organized as a side event to the COP24, and Luca Jahier, President of the EESC, and other members will also travel to Katowice.