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.
In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted. 1992! Therein, the promise to "achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" was made to the world's population.
Yet since the adoption of this convention, climate-damaging emissions have risen massively, and global warming has already reached approx. 1.1 degrees Celsius. At this level, the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers are already melting, permafrost is thawing and coral reefs are dying off on a massive scale. The increasingly extreme global heat waves, droughts, floods and widespread fires mean endless suffering for millions of people. The ever-increasing global heat waves, droughts, floods and large-scale fires result in endless suffering for millions of people.
The climate change that has become so dramatically visible also in Europe during the summer of 2021 is the result of collective political and economic misconduct. At the COP in Paris in 2015, the qualitative target of the Framework Convention on Climate Change was abandoned and a new, quantitative target was set with the "1.5 degree target". Everyone knows, however, that even if this target were to be achieved, the climate impacts that are already visible would become even more severe. And there is great concern that this new target for global climate protection will also be missed: the latest report of the IPPC makes it clear that the temperature increase could rise to as much as 2 degrees by the middle of the century if global greenhouse gas emissions remain at the current level in the coming decades. The consequences for future generations would be unimaginable.
It is therefore necessary to immediately develop faster exit scenarios from fossil fuels, to make energy savings and to massively expand renewable energies. This means an immediate stop to subsidies of all kinds for fossil fuels. This too has been promised many times, but in reality these subsidies are even increasing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) published a report on 6 October this year that calculates that fossil fuel producers worldwide receive 9.5 million euros in government subsidies per minute.
It should be noted that this energy transformation is not a purely technical matter. With the ubiquitously available resources of sun, wind, water and biomass - in conjunction with digitalization, among other things - new regional economic impulses can be set and innovative participation processes organized, from which both citizens directly and small and medium-sized enterprises could benefit. Citizens and civil societies want to act, but political and bureaucratic, as well as interest-driven obstacles often do not allow this.
The EESC, as representative of the European civil society, therefore calls first for an immediate shift of at least 50 % of subsidies granted to fossil fuel producers towards the development and production of sustainable energy, across Europe and beyond. Secondly, the EESC calls on all signatory states to the Framework Convention on Climate Change to make much more structured use of civil society's know-how and innovative power by involving it in all decision-making processes in order to act more rapidly and in a more targeted manner with broad civil support.
The green transition is the sine qua non condition to prevent climate catastrophe in the medium term. It is also the most efficient means to contain soaring energy prices by reducing the EU dependency on fossil fuels, increasing the renewable share and increasing energy efficiency. The EESC calls for the green transition to be a Just Transition. Citizens and industrial sectors that are disproportionately hit have to be substantially supported to get the same opportunities as others.
The involvement of civil society, and more specifically social dialogue, is essential for delivering a Just Transition that leaves no one behind. Particularly, there should be a more structured involvement of the youth, and of representatives of southern countries in decision-making. This year, the EESC delegation at COP26 includes a youth delegate in order to better integrate the intergenerational aspects in all conversations that the EESC will have with its partners.
In preparation of our mission to Glasgow, we have been following the epidemiological development in Great Britain very closely. The situation has been critical for a long time and currently, cases, hospital admissions and deaths are all rising again while the effect of vaccines is beginning to wear off. Britain’s daily number of infections is now triple that of Germany, France and Spain combined (NY Times, 21/10/2021). This is why we have taken the decision not to attend the COP26 in Glasgow physically but to participate remotely.
While COVID is the main reason for our decision, we have taken into account several other factors surrounding COP26. This includes the question of equal access for many CSOs and representatives from the global south, as well as the increasingly challenging logistics.
We want to reassure our partners that this will not affect our engagement in the COP26. We are actively involved in a variety of side events and we will continue our contribution towards a sustainable and climate-resilient future.