Conference on the Geopolitics of the Green Deal

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the voice of organised civil society in Europe, the European Economic and Social Committee is honoured to host this Conference on the Geopolitics of the European Green Deal. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this discussion on the wide-ranging geopolitical implications of the European Green Deal.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted as early as 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.

Polar ice caps and mountain glaciers are 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 huge suffering for millions of people.

We therefore need to be deeply aware of the importance of the Green Deal for both Europe and the world: the green transition is crucial to ensure a future for humankind.  Our young and new generations, who without our immediate action, would have to face the consequences of catastrophic changes triggered by global warming and pollution of the air, soil and water. Putting in place all tools necessary to fight climate change now is the ultimate gesture of intergenerational solidarity and social justice, something that should unite us all towards our common goal.

We also need to be fully aware that natural disasters, disruptions in global supply chains and possible shortages of basic goods and raw materials inflict considerable damage on the European and global economies. Thus, compromising our way of life and putting at risk businesses and jobs. This is why the green transition is a question of survival for both Europe and the world at large.

The green transition entails a major modernisation of the economy and of our ways of producing, distributing and consuming goods. It paves the way for new technologies, energy sources, production methods, as well as new business models and new jobs. The EU Green deal provides Europe with a unique opportunity to make a quantum leap. We can lead by example, while working together with our partners towards a greener and therefore more sustainable future for our planet.

The post-COVID recovery has already started to show its beneficial effects on production, investments and employment. But this has come with a price: energy costs are rising, also due to competition from other parts of the world, bringing a rise in inflation, which has repercussion on our citizens' everyday life.

We should therefore accelerate our efforts towards reducing Europe's energy dependency and towards more clean energy resources and efficiency. In doing so, we should make every effort to reassure other countries that the green transition will not leave them behind. In this context, the role of organised civil society will be crucial: civil society organizations should be involved in all stages of the plans made to steer post-COVID recovery and in direction of the goals set by the Green Deal.

Organised civil society represented by our Committee has been actively contributing to and promoting the green transition. By way of example, we have been long active in promoting efforts towards circular economy, which can only be implemented with the active engagement of civil society and the businesses, workers and consumers it represents. The European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, a flagship project managed together by the European Commission and our Committee, is highlighting cross-sectoral opportunities and challenges, offering a place for dialogue and a bridge between existing initiatives, and contributing to disseminating the concept of circular economy at national, regional and local level.

We also need to be very much aware of the importance of finance for achieving the objectives of the Green Deal. While we consider it very important that the Recovery and Resilience Facility earmarks 37% for the Green Transition, we need to be aware that NextGenerationEU is not a permanent tool and green transition will require huge private investments to be successful. Setting the right framework to also attract private money will be crucial.

While Europe must and can set the example, climate change can only be successfully tackled if the rest of the world is joining us in our efforts.

For instance, we see that coal power, the most polluting fossil fuel, is showing strong recovery in 2021. China (+21%), India (+13%) and the United States (+35%) are all expected to show rises in coal-fired generation for the first quarter of 2021, compared with the same time last year. And while COP26 received critics, we should not forget that the Glasgow Climate Pact, achieved an agreement to at least phase down coal power. 65 countries have now committed to coal phase out, including more than 20 new commitments at COP26.

While an important step forward, this is not sufficient and clearly shows, we need to also engage the rest of the world to join the path towards a greener future. Organised civil society can play a crucial role in doing so.  We should not forget that a successful green transition first and foremost needs the support of our citizens. Living, working, producing and consuming in a different way calls for a major change in mentality, which needs to be underpinned by concrete measures to mitigate the economic and social effects that the transition could initially have on citizens.

It is therefore necessary to ensure a continuous support from citizens to the policies intended to make the Green Deal a reality: without active campaigns aimed to ensure information, communication and involvement, the green transition could be misunderstood and could suffer from a lack of public understanding and support.

The EU should also pay special attention to the impact of the EU green deal on our partners and especially on low-income countries and foresee specific support to accelerate their green transition and to mitigate any negative impact. Therefore, every effort should be made to ensure our partners that the EU Green deal will not leave them behind.

The European Economic and Social Committee is ready to play its part in this process, thus ensuring a clear civil society's ownership of the Green Deal. We are ready to co-operate with both European and international partners to spread the word and act through our networks and experience.

Dear guests, I would like to again thank you all for taking part in this conference: you are putting a highly important and extremely valuable expertise at disposal of the long-standing but urgent goal of the green transition, and we count on you for the next steps.

Thank you for your attention, and I wish you a fruitful day of discussions.

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Conference on the Geopolitics of the Green Deal