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.
Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, and Siân Hughes, moderator
Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, chose the conference Empowering consumers on climate change, hosted by the Civil Society Organisations' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 11 October, for his first green dialogue. Mr Šefčovič first spoke about the green dialogues at last week's European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety hearing confirming that he would be responsible for the European Green Deal.
The conference organised by the EESC Civil Society Organisations' Group was attended by around 140 people, including national and European representatives of civil society organisations and European policymakers. The event included the launch of an EESC-commissioned study on The cost of climate change on households and families in the EU. It also highlighted the role of consumers and the need for an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable and inclusive green transition, requiring targeted policies and cooperation among all stakeholders.
Opening the event, Séamus Boland, President of the Civil Society Organisations' Group, said that We welcomed your announcement at the European Parliament, and you have honoured us by selecting our conference for your first green dialogue.
Mr Šefčovič said that he plans to hold green dialogues on a regular basis to cultivate and strengthen public support for the European Green Deal. We want to show that we not only have the legal solutions, we also listen and care and are always ready to work with stakeholders to find balanced solutions. These solutions will help us tackle climate change, be socially responsible and help create high-quality jobs in Europe. Your Committee, with your group, is an excellent forum for these dialogues.
Mr Boland underlined the crucial importance of civil society involvement for the success of the green transition: Civil society organisations, national and European policymakers must work together to design climate-neutral policies, with sufficient and targeted funding. Policies must address the varying impact of both climate change and the necessary green transition on different socio-economic groups. Clarity and predictability will help reassure investors that we are changing to new technologies and behaviours.
Regarding the social climate fund, expected to be operational in 2026, Mr Šefčovič said that There will be around EUR 86 billion for structural measures and investments and short-term measures in particular, helping vulnerable households and micro-enterprises and supporting transport users. National energy and climate plans should be used to channel financial support to where it is needed.
With a view to more environmentally-friendly investment decisions, consumers need to be better informed and protected against greenwashing. Mr Šefčovič added that the Commission's work on ecodesign, packaging waste and green public procurement could lead to further savings for consumers. We have to establish a more direct link between the benefits brought by the Green Deal and the lives of individual Europeans.
During the discussions, participants pointed out that the climate crisis threatens the cohesion of societies and increases existing forms of inequality. Urgent action is needed to mitigate the social repercussions of the crisis on vulnerable groups. The green transition will only be just if it is centred on people, respect and bottom-up approaches empowering local communities.
Farmers' representatives said that the agricultural sector is working hard to reduce emissions and remove atmospheric carbon, while producing high-quality, nutritious and affordable food. Policies should help them to reduce emissions through incentives, rather than coercion.
Consumer representatives called for policies that make sustainable alternatives available, affordable, attractive and convenient. Environmental representatives warned that nuclear, hydrogen and carbon capture storage could distract consumers and investors from sustainable energy solutions and lead to higher costs. Consumers needed to have the option of participating financially in the green transition as prosumers. Further regulations and policies were needed to protect consumers and encourage them to make informed, sustainable decisions, such as the new proposal on common rules promoting the repair of goods.
A study commissioned by the EESC at the request of the Civil Society Organisations' Group was presented during the conference. This study, on The cost of climate change on households and families in the EU, investigates major climate-related risks for households in the EU by quantifying the relationship between a set of selected climate-hazard metrics, households' income by source and sector-specific expenditure.
Presenting the findings of the study, Lorenza Campagnolo, researcher at the Fondazione Centro Euro- Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC), said that the economic impact of climate change did not affect all EU households in the same way. Southern Europeans will face particularly negative and regressive impacts from increasing health, electricity, food expenditure and income contraction, increasing their poverty risk.
The Civil Society Organisations' Group has been focusing on climate change and its impact on Europeans for the last three years. The need for a just transition in particular was explored at two events, one in Ireland and the other in the Czech Republic.