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The EU is the crucial actor in coordinating and financing the national and regional fight against climate change. It supports bottom-up climate action globally but there is much more that it could be doing in Europe. The EESC says clearly that without action by citizens, communities, municipalities, businesses and other groups of civil society we will simply not be able to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In order to be able to implement smaller and micro projects, which are key to reaching these goals, it is critical to facilitate access to finance.
If our lives and the preservation of our livelihoods are as important to us as rescuing banks, then there should be no discussion as to whether or not we will invest around $ 900 billion per annum on mitigating climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If it is right and proper to support big banks, it is only fair to promote private and small and medium-sized initiatives that protect our climate, says the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
In an opinion titled Facilitating access to climate finance for non-state actors, drafted by Cillian Lohan, the EESC identifies the different problems that various groups are facing in getting finance for their climate action projects, and offers possible solutions.
The EESC is also very clear about the fact that the fight against climate change certainly cannot be won if one hand is paying for climate finance, while the other is still promoting climate-damaging activities such as subsidies for fossil energy sources. It is crucial for all public, as well as private, financing to be checked for its climate impact.
A platform at EU level
As a first step the EESC is proposing a Climate Finance Forum, bringing together key stakeholders who can identify barriers, work out solutions and identify the most efficient mechanisms for improved distribution of finance for small scale bottom-up projects.
"We thought of a kind of match-making service that links projects and appropriate climate finance sources to each other", explains Mr Lohan. "We know that there are numerous ideas of reasonable climate projects existing all over Europe, which have not yet had a chance to be implemented because of the lack of resources. The transition is happening. We must ensure climate financing is understood as a means of making low carbon solutions affordable and accessible to ordinary citizens"
There must also be a strong focus on disseminating best practices in order to encourage imitation all over Europe, and the forum would be the right place to achieve this.
Communication in all directions
The EESC, with its network of organised civil society groups throughout Europe, is in a strong position to be part of a Climate Finance Forum, as a voice that can represent the grassroots issues with accessing finance.
"We also need a system that identifies, analyses, synthesises and disseminates information on the variety of funding sources available for non-state actors", emphasises Cillian Lohan. Climate finance flows must be recorded systematically, and obstacles must be made visible and eliminated.
"Most importantly, we need to ensure that climate finance is used to give citizens choices and options - so that ordinary people can reap the benefits of a low carbon society, and not be forced to pay the costs of the transition" stresses Mr Lohan.
A dedicated and robust budget for the fight against climate change
When formulating the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework, it would be useful to sound out opportunities to enable bottom-up non-state climate action to efficiently deliver on the EU's climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The EESC reiterates its call already included in the Finance-Climate Pact Opinion by Rudy De Leeuw for at least 40% of EU expenditure to contribute to climate objectives, combined at the same time with the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, including no direct or indirect (co-)financing of any fossil-based energy through European funds.