The Paris Agreement is a welcome global commitment to mitigate climate change. The task ahead is to ensure that the agreement is ratified, implemented and developed further. The huge global challenges require a major shift in the European Union's approach. Instead of focusing solely on its own greenhouse gas emissions, the EU should consider how it can contribute to achieving the greatest climate benefits from a global perspective. The EESC thus calls on the European Commission to put together a long-term strategy on how to grow and maximise the global "carbon handprint" of the EU. The EESC urges the Commission to frame the climate strategy in a way that helps strengthen the EU economy and enhance the well-being of its citizens, while mitigating climate change.
Global commitment is essential to achieving meaningful climate impacts and avoiding carbon, investment and job leakage. The EESC calls on the Commission to continue engaging in active climate diplomacy, with the aim of enhancing broad implementation of the Agreement and encouraging major economies to raise their commitments to a similar level of ambition as the EU. The EESC also calls on the Commission to integrate climate considerations into all areas of external policy, notably in the areas of trade and investment, and development cooperation.
The EESC calls for a strong boost for innovation – from research to market entry – so as to place the EU at the global forefront of climate solutions. Particular attention should be paid to the potential of SMEs. The EU should aim to be a Climate Union that is action-oriented, effective and cohesive in its domestic measures. Every effort must now be focused on implementing the decisions made so far.
Furthermore, the EESC calls on the Commission to base the long-term strategy on an integrated approach. The path forward should be developed as part of related single market "unions", particularly those in the area of energy, transport, digitalisation, industry, agriculture, capital and innovation. Special attention should also be paid to the challenges of sustainable food systems, and the role of carbon sinks. The EESC encourages the Commission to actively explore different routes and steps and to engage with other countries on moving towards global carbon pricing.
The Road from Paris to a carbon-neutral economy is extremely challenging. To manage the transition in a just and controlled way, and to help businesses and citizens adapt to the changes and develop new solutions and skills, proper adjustment measures have to be introduced as part of the climate strategy.
It is civil society partners that will bring about the shift to a carbon-neutral economy through their action on the ground, while the role of political decision-makers is to provide them with an enabling environment and funding, including awareness-raising on all available funding opportunities. A multi-level governance approach has to be developed to facilitate civil society climate action and to remove obstacles to it.