We are in a climate emergency. At the time of the global health and impending economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU's commitment to the transition to a sustainable, resilient, climate-neutral and resource-efficient wellbeing economy must be reaffirmed. What we need now are transformational shifts in culture, infrastructure, behaviour, participation and livelihoods that will impact on, but also empower, citizens in multiple ways.
Climate change threatens us all, but, as with the pandemic, it has the most damaging effect on the most vulnerable and marginalised people. It is vital that the transition leaves no one behind.
The EESC underlines that the active participation of all parts of society – enterprises, workers, researchers, consumers, communities and citizens and their organisations – is crucial for mobilising the transition to climate neutrality.
The EESC thus supports the call for the European Union to commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and accordingly adjust its greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report 2019 indicates that global emissions need to be cut by 7.6% per year, starting now, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Calculated, this means a reduction target of at least 68% by 2030.
A shift to a participatory model is required at all levels of scale and, in implementing the Climate Pact, the Commission has an important opportunity and obligation to model an innovative approach which will mirror, support and inspire action already happening in civil society, within communities, cities and regions.
Participatory models which are too narrowly focused, or framed in ways which limit the scale of the changes explored, or which are capable of being ignored by the institution that has established them, will serve only to distract and disillusion those that engage.
Europe needs to catalyse systemic change for climate action through innovation (technological and social) by connecting the supply of innovation with demand-side actors, problem owners and those with a high ambition for change. The digital transformation should be guided by the SDGs to avoid risks, including those relating to workers' rights. The implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, in tandem with the EGD, provides an opportunity to ensure a just transition focused on the objective of quality jobs for all.
The overall challenges identified most by civil society actors engaging in climate action are a lack of access to finance, a lack of expertise, a lack of staff and a lack of recognition, as well as the lack of a consistent narrative from the EU and the national governments.
Achieving EU and international climate goals will require significant financial resources. The European Green Deal (EGD) budget (public and private funds), the EUR 750 billion of the recovery fund, including the allocation of funds for the EU semester process, should be focused on sustainable recovery, including climate action.
Funding conditionality on sustainable practices in all sectors should be the norm for designing post-COVID recovery plans geared towards the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement. The COVID-19 recovery response should not be to "bounce back" to where we were before, but rather to "bounce forward" to something new and better.
Capacity building and technical support are necessary for all stakeholders to make the transition to a more resilient and sustainable future. Setting up an EU Climate Finance Forum would stimulate access to finance and remove barriers.
The EESC proposes a European Climate Pact Stakeholder Platform based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency and genuine participation and ownership by climate actors at all levels.
The Climate Pact should be focused on empowering people to change systems – through exploration, experimentation and demonstration. Multi-level perspectives, visioning, story-telling and backcasting will all be crucial. A wide variety of climate initiatives should be fostered and facilitated.