Time is running out! A real Green and Social Deal must deliver urgently says the EESC

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The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is deeply concerned with the growing disconnect between the climate emergency and the political answers to the climate crisis at COP25. Without any clear signs of increased ambition by the major polluters despite the continuous rise of emissions, the EESC expects the EU to take the lead and deliver on its promise of a growth that gives back more than it takes away.

As in previous years, the EESC (European Economic and Social Committee) is present at COP25, the annual Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which this year takes place in Madrid, Spain, from 2-14 December 2019.

 Why is this COP25 so important?

This meeting is the last before the countries present in 2020 their reviewed national determined contributions (NDCs), and it will be the time to assess the collective 5-year progress towards achieving the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Agreement aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to limit the rise in global average temperature to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, with an effort to limit the increase to 1.5ºC.

At this moment, most of the countries are quite far behind their commitments. The results of the Framework Convention on Climate Change are simply a disappointment. It has been promised to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. However, since its adoption, GHG emissions have risen by 50 %, many people have experienced undignified grief and the resulting damage is almost immeasurable, said EESC member Lutz Ribbe.

 The EU is the third biggest GHG emitter, but one with the boldest targets

The EU 28 member states are responsible for around 10% of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, while China and the US lead respectively with 27% and 14%. India comes in fourth place with around 7% of the emissions. These four actors are responsible for around 60% of the global GHG emissions.

The EU has committed to cut its GHG emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and to work towards carbon neutrality as from 2050, which means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks.

During the second week of the COP25, the European Commission came forward with its European Green Deal - a top priority and a new growth strategy for the EU. The EESC will hold the Commission to account so that it truly delivers on a new qualitatively different model of growth that helps us remain within the planetary boundaries and enables a just transition to climate neutrality.

We cannot achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without addressing social inequalities. 10% of wealthiest households hold 50% of total wealth – this is not sustainable! We need redistributive policies and a new model of growth to make sure that no one is left behind, said EESC member Peter Schmidt.

Which are the EESC proposals to tackle the problem and accelerate the transition? There are only three ways to do it:

Political will

The EESC stresses that the transition to a climate neutral society must be implemented through a competitive, socially fair and multilateral approach and that appropriate tools must be put in place to achieve full involvement and acceptance of civil society, including all citizens, businesses and organisations.

A strong commitment on climate neutrality by 2050 and a clear ambition in EU’s contribution for the COP26 in Glasgow are necessary if we are serious about dealing with the climate crisis.

Europe must be sustainable or it will simply not be. There is no alternative to a sustainable economy. Europe has to seize the moment and take the lead, said EESC President, Luca Jahier.

Investment and systemic innovation

In 2019, the EESC has called for allocating 40% of EU budget, instead of the 25% proposed by the European Commission, to the fight against climate change. While there has been progress on the issue of financing the fight against global warming and its effects, it has not been enough. In addition, the challenge will be to make sure that none of the financing goes towards projects contradictory with the climate objectives. All public sector spending and all financing mechanisms should be aligned with the goal of achieving the SDGs and making the transition to a climate-neutral economy.

The EESC underlines the importance of the circular economy (CE), bio economy, digitalisation and the sharing economy, as key contributors to improve resource efficiency and reduce emissions. The transition to a climate neutral economy will not happen without far-reaching research and innovation. It requires all sorts of innovation, including in the area of new behaviours, business models, social norms, processes, techniques, marketing and technologies

Leaving no one behind

Above all, we expect the EU to be the world leader on Sustainable Development. We must demonstrate to the rest of the world that a real sustainable economy ensures ecological and social well-being, facilitates inclusive governance, and most importantly provides for social cohesion, leaving no one behind.

The transition to a sustainable, carbon-neutral and resource-efficient economy requires fundamental changes in our society and in our economy. This in turn requires an active policy. We need a European Green and Social Deal. In this context, the most vulnerable groups in society as well as the most disadvantaged regions and territories need special consideration. The Just Transition and the mechanisms put in place must be broad enough to encompass this broad understanding of climate and social justice. We must re-boot the system but we need a new software, not just an update, said EESC Member Peter Schmidt.

The EESC at COP25

The EESC has co-organised two side events at the COP25, which took place on the 11th of December:

Combining circular economy principles with GHG-reduction strategies

The circular economy and nature-based solutions are two key and available means to scale-up climate action. This event provided examples of circular economy (CE) good practices and a forum for discussion to help CE practitioners deal with challenges they face. It has demonstrated solutions from industry to tackle climate change, and showed examples of approaches to CE taken at a company level.

Leaving no one behind in the transition to climate neutrality

At this event, different stakeholders have discussed the need of a fair and just transition and a European Green Deal that leave no one behind. This transition means that the most vulnerable members of society, as well as regions and territories that are in the need of special consideration have to be involved in decision-making.