The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the European Commission believe that the clean energy transition must be at the heart of the post-COVID-19 European Union and that now is the time to accelerate implementation of green measures for economic recovery.
2021 must be the time for action to speed up implementation of measures for energy efficiency and sustainable development in Europe. This is the message that EESC President Christa Schweng and European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson conveyed at the discussion on the presentation of the European Commission's 2021 Work Programme and its priorities in the field of energy, held in Brussels and remotely on 11 February 2021.
Ms Schweng stressed that in 2020 (compared to 2019), global energy demand was estimated to have dropt by around 5%, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7%, and energy investment by 18% but that recoveries from previous global economic crises had generally been accompanied by a large jump in emissions.
A similar rebound in emissions can be expected after this crisis unless an effort is made to place green energy at the heart of the economic recovery. Now is the time to accelerate clean energy transitions, energy resilience and sustainable development, she said.
The prompt and targeted implementation of the EU financial programmes (Recovery and Resilience Facility, NextGenerationEU, Just Transition Plans) will play a key role in the EU's recovery and in achieving the European Green Deal targets.
It is important to underline that the energy transition is not just a technological issue but also a profoundly social and political challenge. Due consideration, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, must be given to the real impact of action taken in the energy sector on the life of citizens and business. That is why it is important that civil society organisations are involved in the preparation of the national recovery plans.
For her part, Ms Simson described 2020 as a difficult, unprecedented and disruptive year but also a breakthrough year for energy in Europe:
Almost one year ago, the Commission proposed a new European Green Deal Strategy for Europe. And with it, we set the goal of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. The Member States have now also endorsed this objective.
Looking ahead, she mentioned that while 2020 was the year of strategies and visions, 2021 would be the year of delivery, with several key legislative proposals on renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy performance of buildings, methane emissions and the gas market, to be adopted in June:
As announced in the Commission's 2021 Work Programme, the "Fit for 55" package will include five legislative proposals revising existing energy legislation in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels, as decided in the Climate Target Plan in September last year. To this end, the renewable energy share needs to increase to 38-40% by 2030.
Stressing the importance of the cooperation between the EESC and the Commission, Ms Simson added that the Committee's members could play a crucial role in achieving these goals, as the expertise of business and civil society players will be valuable in the process of prioritising energy and climate projects in both the Recovery and Resilience Plans and the Just Transition Plans.
In this respect, Baiba Miltoviča, president of the EESC Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN), referred to the need to coordinate work among the EU institutions and the importance of the social and societal dimension of the energy transition:
In many EESC opinions, TEN section members have discussed energy poverty, which has become a pressing issue in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy poverty is an example of social, environmental and economic injustice. The risk is that those in energy poverty will end up paying for the energy transition and energy policies. We need to do more in this regard.
For more information on the TEN section's activities, please consult our website.