The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
Adoption of the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change is strongly supported by the European Economic and Social Committee as a crucial step towards the European Green Deal (EGD) target of climate neutrality and resilience by 2050. However, the Committee would have liked to see the proposed areas of action not only outlined in general terms, but also to have been made clear with concrete examples. People need to be given a clearer picture of what the changes could look like.
The risk of economic damage and loss of life due to the increased frequency and intensity of climate-related extreme weather effects will continue. Equally important is the risk that both climate change impacts and the climate adaptation effort may exacerbate existing inequalities. Adaptation, with equity at its core, is thus essential to protect European citizens' lives, employment and livelihoods, especially those of the more vulnerable, who are traditionally hit more harshly by climate change. In the framework of a just transition, civil society organisations play a key role. In particular, the involvement of social partners must be ensured in order to successfully implement adaptations in the world of work and to maintain decent working conditions through social dialogue and collective bargaining.
Implementation of the Strategy, as well as the European Green Deal, should be based on a systemic approach. The Committee calls for "equal emphasis" on financing mitigation and adaptation.
The EESC sees the need for specific adaptation guidelines, targets and monitoring tools, benchmarks and indicators to help provide transparency around resource allocation, anticipate and manage climate change impacts, and assess the progress of climate adaptation, while building local, national and regional capacity for using all of these tools.
The EESC sees nature-based solutions, the bioeconomy and the transition to a circular economy as essential climate adaptation approaches and, at the same time, as an opportunity for the EU to recover in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.
The Committee calls on the Commission to seek better alignment of climate adaptation policies with climate justice in future adaptation policy work. The Committee acknowledges that climate change can have differing social, economic, public health and other adverse impacts on communities and advocates addressing existing inequities head on through long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies, so that no one is left behind.
To support businesses in their own adaptation and in their efforts to provide society with adaptation solutions, the EU needs to further enable and encourage conditions for innovation, investment and trade that enhance sustainable development. Climate adaptation and its costs should also be an integral part of the EU's industrial strategy.
The EESC believes that agriculture, forestry and fisheries are among the most directly affected businesses. At the same time, however, they can contribute to adaptation solutions, carbon sequestration and food security. Intensive research and innovation, as well as rewards for the proven creation of carbon sinks, are needed to support these sectors.
The annual average economic losses from climate-related disasters are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The UN report on the Human Cost of Disasters also paints a stark picture: "Over the last twenty years, 7,348 disaster events were recorded [...], disasters claimed approximately 1.23 million lives [...] and affected a total of over 4 billion people (many on more than one occasion). Additionally, disasters led to approximately US$ 2.97 trillion in economic losses worldwide." There are several sources of EU funding available for financing adaptation: the budget of the European Green Deal, the MFF and NextGenerationEU. The EESC calls for more clarity on the different options, as well as user-friendly procedures to ensure timely access to financing at a practical level. In addition, the abolition of fossil fuel subsidies and a green fiscal reform would free up considerable resources from public budgets, address systemic inconsistencies, and generate new revenues to finance climate adaptation. The EESC is critical of the fact that a specific roadmap for abolishing the environmentally harmful subsidies has yet to be put forward.
The EESC also calls for measures that will make channelling investment to the fossil fuel industry the least favourable strategy for financial institutions, and create an incentive for allocating private financial flows to activities supporting climate mitigation and adaptation. This is important for investments both inside and outside the EU; in order for the Union to emerge as a global standard-setter in the field of sustainable finance, the Commission should keep the bar high and follow science-based and technology-neutrality principles, including in the EU Taxonomy.
The Strategy acknowledges the need for additional international finance for climate change adaptation, including from public sources; however, the EESC urges the Commission to clarify how exactly it will unlock barriers to accessing finance for the most vulnerable countries, communities and sectors globally and how it will include proposals for the integration of gender and tackling inequalities at regional and local level.
Overall, the Committee sees the Strategy as a basis for a legally binding initiative, obliging Member States to develop national climate change adaptation plans and strategies. The European Climate Law will be instrumental in achieving binding climate-related policies.
Local and regional governments, as the implementing authorities for most adaptation initiatives, should be supported with sufficient resources to develop capacity in this area.