COP24 - Without action by Civil Society it will not be possible to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement

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COP24 - "Indigenous and local communities leading the way for climate action", 7 December 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and thank you for inviting the European Economic and Social Committee to this important event.

The EESC is in Katowice as part of the EU delegation. We represent the civil society – the so–called non-Party stakeholders. This term includes people and communities like yours, who dare take ownership of both local and global challenges, who build thriving and resilient communities and thus revitalize social links, strengthen local and regional economies and increase our collective wellbeing.

We all know how important the challenges ahead of the negotiators are for this session. They need to come up with clear and transparent rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as well as send signals that ambition will be stepped up with enhanced targets. They need to demonstrate that climate finance can be boosted and that promises will be kept. But what we see is not encouraging. To date, no single country has sent a clear signal for the revision of its contribution.

Meanwhile, the special IPCC report adopted in October couldn't be clearer on the need for urgent climate action. The rate of sea level rise is accelerating and much of the thick multi-year ice in the Arctic has melted. Carbon dioxide concentrations have never been that high. But no government seems to want to lead the way.

Nonetheless it gives me hope to be in this room today, among the true leaders of climate action. In the EESC we know that the shift towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy has been driven to a great extent by bottom-up initiatives led by citizens, local authorities, consumers and innovative enterprises.

The Paris Agreement recognised the decisive role and the contribution of these actors in achieving the objectives and raising the ambition of States.

But despite that, initiatives led by small communities with huge transformative potential face obstacles and challenges that make it impossible for them to take or continue positive action on climate. This must change! We cannot develop solutions without including the voices of those most impacted and vulnerable.

Moreover, we have to honestly say that necessary transition will have its losers. Particularly affected could be communities whose economies depend on activities that either are expected to decline or will have to transform. It is critical to protect these communities to ensure that the transition leaves no one behind.

Earlier this year, the EESC has called for a "European Dialogue on Non-State Climate Action" to strengthen and increase the scope and scale of European-based non-state climate action. In a few days we will also formally adopt an opinion on facilitating access to climate finance for bottom up initiatives

We believe strongly that community-led action on sustainability is key to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals. We want to state it loud and clear 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.

The role of our Committee is to continue working closely with you to ensure that the action by local communities is not only recognised and showcased, but also facilitated and supported.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you a fruitful discussion.


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COP24 - "Building partnerships and tracking progress - role of non-state and subnational actors", 8 December 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining the European Economic and Social Committee, the Climate Chance Association and the German Development Institute for this event we organise jointly.

The EESC is particularly pleased to be part of this event because as an Institution representing the European organised civil society we have made it our strong priority to demonstrate and support the role that non-state and subnational stakeholders play in meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

When we look at where we are today, in view of the recent IPCC special report, and seeing how strong is the disconnect between the absolute urgency to act now and the slow pace in which the governments are moving or event regressing in some cases, we understand how important it is for others to take leadership and demonstrate the strong determination and an enormous potential from the bottom-up movement.

By combining efforts from local communities, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, businesses, researchers and multi-level governments, it will be possible to spur robust climate action and effect positive change and thus speed up both low-carbon development and sustainable development.

Non-state action can also serve to demonstrate that the transition is an opportunity for the EU to increase its competitiveness, benefitting the EU's businesses. Already close to 500 companies from 38 countries have adopted emission reduction pathways in line with the science of the Paris Agreement. Nearly a fifth of Fortune Global 500 companies have now committed to set science-based emissions reduction targets.

This should not only inform more ambitious climate policies by national governments but also hold them to account.

In recognition of that great potential of bottom-up actors to drive global efforts to abate climate change and adapt to its consequences, earlier this year the EESC called for a "European Dialogue on Non-State Climate Action".

We stressed that in the first place we need recognition of effective, innovative, and creative bottom-up climate initiatives. This is a precondition to incentivise new actions and encouraging ongoing ones and have a replication effect that is so much needed.

There has been some progress in this area and we will hear more about the tracking of action from our speakers today.

However, this demonstration of progress comes mainly from the non-state and subnational actors themselves; we do not see a strong recognition and appreciation by governments.

This is something we hope to discuss further with you and with the European Commission today.

In fact, we intend, as EESC, together with the Committee of the Regions, Comité 21 and ECOLISE to send to the highest level of the European Commission, a letter calling for an ever stronger recognition of the role of non-party stakeholders in the Paris agreement.

Secondly, it is absolutely crucial to remove barriers for action and accelerate bottom-up climate initiatives. Climate action must become the new "business-as-usual"! Way to often further progress is hampered by administrative and regulatory obstacles, lack of appropriate consultation mechanisms or inappropriate financial procedures blocking access to funding for bottom-up initiatives.

This leads me to say that we need an enabling environment that would not only highlight and showcase successful initiatives, but also respond to the needs of bottom-up actors. In our view, the EU should take this task very seriously and we are happy to engage in a constructive dialogue with the other Institutions and with the stakeholders on the ground to help facilitate this.

This is also a reason why EESC is active within the International Climate Governance Coalition, together with the European Committee of the Regions, OECD, Comité 21, ICLEI and ECOLISE – coalition which started in the context of Climate Chance Summit in 2016. We believe that the global climate governance regime is a truly significant trend, and that it is therefore essential that the UNFCCC regulatory framework acknowledges this form of bottom-up governance by formally recognising its role in the decision-making process facing climate change.

Let me close by saying that we see this event today as another key step in advancing the European Dialogue on Non-State Climate Action and we are happy to hear your views on what we could do together to further support initiatives on the ground.


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COP24 - EESC side event on "Making finance work for climate transition", 8 December 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining the European Economic and Social Committee for this event devoted to the subject at the core of the COP24, climate finance.

As we find ourselves in the EU Pavilion and because the EESC is an EU Institution, the discussion today is largely concentrating on what can be done at the EU level, even though we have invited international speakers to share with us their thoughts and inspire further ideas.

It is absolutely clear that the effort needed to implement the Paris Agreement will require unprecedented changes in all areas of society. This means significant investment. Only in energy-related mitigation, the total annual average investment for the period 2015 to 2050 is estimated to be around USD 900 billion, according to the IPCC special report, in pathways limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Although the investment required to tackle this challenge is large, it is not as large as was the investment required to rescue a collapsing financial sector in recent years. On that occasion EUR 2.5 trillion were mobilised. One would think that the potential collapse of the ecosystems that sustain us should warrant at the very least an equal response.

While we have seen progress in financing commitments, it has not been enough. The latest IPCC report clearly states that we are in a critical period, with radical actions required in the next decade to limit impacts to manageable levels. Political priority must be given to sustainable finance and a sustainable economy, in particular through clear, stable and incentive-based legislation.

The EESC has recently adopted an opinion arguing for a "finance-climate pact" to ensure the financing of the necessary transitions. Our Rapporteur, Rudy De Leeuw will present this idea further in his remarks. With this text the EESC tabled the most ambitious proposal among the EU institutions: we say that 40% of the EU budget should be devoted to the fight against climate change and its consequences, be it environmental, economic or social. 

It is important to note however that we cannot focus solely on creating new explicit funding lines. In order to ensure that action by some becomes action by all we must make all finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low carbon and climate resilient development. We must also change our approach to access to finance.

There are currently many thousands of bottom-up initiatives on climate change and sustainability in Europe and globally. These initiatives have a significant contribution to make but they are mostly reliant on volunteers and a major barrier to their development and upscaling is the lack of funding and professional support.

Often, very modest resources are required, without which initiatives struggle to progress and launch projects. The transformative potential of these initiatives is not being harnessed. The EESC Rapporteur Cillian Lohan will introduce the discussion on this issue in the second part of the event.

While we believe that climate change is one of the biggest threats to human beings and our planet, we also must see the opportunities emerging from the need to change Europe's economy to a sustainable one.

We want to say it clear and loud: climate change and the sustainability is no longer about environmental issues alone: these challenges should be used to create a win-win agenda for employers, workers and civil society.

The new business opportunities will be linked to climate action: take the development of the batteries, electronic cars or renewable energies for instance. These are the sectors which will be decisive and which tomorrow will determine who is competitive and who is not.

We should make sure that our action on climate change serves to move towards a sustainable social model and to establish an action plan to ensure a fair transition so that nobody is left behind.

It must be also an opportunity for civil society – as the true drivers of action, provided that civil society is properly enshrined in the governance process of climate change and sustainable development.

And finally, this debate of ours does not only concern us: we have to be ambitious for us and for our children. We have a generational duty.

I wish you fruitful discussions and thank you for your attention.

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