We need to send a strong signal to non-state actors, says EESC

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A European Dialogue would give European citizens' climate change action a huge fillip

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) proposes a European Dialogue, whose main goal would be to accelerate climate actions by making engagement more attractive to the multiplicity of non-state actors, particularly by facilitating the implementation of climate change actions.

The EESC tabled its proposal in its opinion on Boosting climate actions by non-state actors -adopted at its plenary on 15 February - and if developments are in line with the Committee's wishes, action on climate change should become the new business as usual.

European citizens and civil society are not only aware of the urgent necessity of a low- or non-carbon economy; they are already contributing to the fight against climate change with their own projects. They could and would do more, if they had the necessary support, said rapporteur Mindaugas Maciulevičius.

We already have a lot of small projects in energy, transport, agriculture, forestry, etc. and we have to make them more visible and give them greater support, be it through better regulation or easier access to finance.

Despite its strong global leadership, the EU lacks an internal framework that creates an enabling environment for non-state climate actions, added co-rapporteur Josep Puxeu Rocamora, and it is our task to remind the Commission of its responsibility.

According to the EU-funded Toward European Societal Sustainability (TESS) project, if only 5% of EU citizens were engaged in effective community-led climate mitigation initiatives, the carbon savings would be sufficient for the EU-28 countries to achieve nearly 85% of their agreed 2020 emissions reductions targets.

A European Dialogue for Non-State Climate Action

The EESC proposes a European Dialogue (ED) which should respond to the needs of non-state actors, but also provide an overview of climate actions.

We are not calling for more bureaucracy, said Mr Puxeu Rocamora, the European Dialogue should rather prioritise the strategic linking of existing programmes, initiatives and institutions. Furthermore it should generate events to support recognition, feedback, learning and networking functions for non-state actors or even awarding outstanding projects.

An online platform under the European Dialogue could act as a clearing house, recording and providing an overview of European-based climate actions. It could also provide a comprehensive data repository capable of supporting strategic analysis and feeding into local, national and EU policies.

The EESC would play a key role in initiating this dialogue and will seek to get the European Commission and other EU institutions on board, because it is convinced that this dialogue would significantly empower all non-state actors – businesses, including SMEs, social enterprises and cooperatives, civil society groups, but also local and regional authorities, thus creating new sustainable business and job opportunities.

As a first step towards this European Dialogue the EESC proposes an event to be held in the first half of 2018, organised in the spirit of the Talanoa dialogue and bringing together stakeholder networks, representatives from EU institutions and Member States.

In its opinion, the Committee also presents the result of its recent survey among non-state actors, listing their most pressing needs:

  • Supportive policy/legislative environment;
  • Access to public funds and fiscal incentives;
  • Exchange of knowledge and good practices/examples to follow, capacity building;
  • Improved cooperation among the various players in the private and public spheres.

It is important to send a strong and positive message to small businesses and civil society that their endeavours are not in vain. We all have a role to play in the fight against climate change and every little initiative helping to preserve our planet for future generations deserves to be supported and presented, concluded Mr Maciulevičius.