Stepping up Europe's 2030 climate ambition: only a holistic approach can turn the challenges into opportunities

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2030  40% increases to 55%

In response to the Commission Communication Stepping up Europe's 2030 climate ambition, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) reaffirms that the Commission's decision to raise the EU's ambition on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 is the right one. However, in its opinion Stepping up Europe's climate ambition, the EESC insists on increasing efforts to achieve the intermediate targets, speeding up the process and placing the European citizens at the centre of climate action. Failing this, the EU will be at risk of missing its climate-neutral goal by 2050.

This is indeed a race against time, and we need the perspicacity of the turtle, the legs of the hare and the vision of the owl to get there. 2020 was the hottest year on record, tying with 2016. The past decade was the warmest in human history. The window for addressing the climate crisis is narrowing at an alarming rate: 2030 is just around the corner.

It is true that COVID-19 has brought immense economic problems in its wake, with the climate emergency once again being pushed back into second place. However, the re-orientation of investments under the EU's recovery plan has opened the door for a new strategy: the combination of investments with a 'fit for future' approach, implying a renewed focus on ambitious climate action.

Post-COVID-19 recovery spending must be combined with ambitious climate action to avoid wasted money and stranded assets. These investments must actually be used in the spirit of an inclusive climate policy that puts citizens at the centre, stressed EESC co-rapporteur, Jan Dirx.

The EESC believes that the most important thing now is to launch as swiftly as possible the concrete measures and legislation needed so that citizens and social partners are aware of how the emission target goals can be achieved and what this means for their work and life. These measures should also be taken to guarantee that the risks and opportunities are shared equally, to ensure certainty and stability, added Mr Dirx.

The opinion also highlights the need to strengthen the bioeconomy and to substitute fossil fuels and materials, and we consequently recommend that the Commission give absolute priority to updating European legislation on the transition to renewable fuels, emphasised the EESC rapporteur, Arnold Puech d'Alissac.

The Commission intends to present the necessary detailed legislative proposals by June 2021. The EESC invites the co-legislators not to exceed this timeframe, as this will already leave less than nine years to implement them.

Holistic approach: turning the challenges into opportunities

It is more than ever essential to use all possible tools to upscale the EU's climate ambition: the Green Deal, the European Climate Law, the MFF, the Next Generation EU recovery fund, the CAP, the Farm to fork and Biodiversity strategies, trade policies and agreements, industry and transport policies. They all should be articulated in a consistent manner, making sure the transition leaves no one behind, said Mr Dirx.

The EESC therefore congratulates the Commission, which rightly calls for the transition of our economy to be accompanied by investment in upskilling and vocational training and continuing education for many professional groups, said Mr Puech d'Alissac.

Furthermore, measures must be taken to ensure that new employment opportunities trigger the growth of jobs with decent wages and good working conditions.

The EESC likewise endorses the Commission's statement that citizens are "crucial partners in the fight against climate change", because active participation and empowerment of "all parts of society" is a necessary precondition for climate policy to be successful in the EU.

This is why the EESC reiterates its proposal to engage with the European Commission and other EU bodies to co-create a European Climate Pact Stakeholder Platform, based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency and genuine participation and ownership by climate actors at all levels.

2021 will be a critical year for setting international standards, and the EU has an important role to play in establishing the benchmark. The sooner we make the transition the better, and the EU will do everything within its power to encourage other countries to follow suit.

The good news is that the US, the world's second largest GHG emitter, is back on board the Paris Agreement, thus making the upcoming November COP 26 the most promising gathering in terms of climate ambition for the next decade.

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