The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) concludes that in transiting towards a climate neutral society, we need to embark on a model that results in a thriving economy. If we want the EU to be a frontrunner and be emulated by the rest of the world, we should aim at shaping the most successful model – one that is just and sustainable from an economic, social and environmental viewpoint. Adopting a model which does not lead to growth based on Sustainable Development, would only isolate us in the international area, paving the way for other global competitors to take leadership. EU climate diplomacy will play an important role in promoting the European approach and in ensuring fair competition between the EU and competing continents.
Reaching the revised 2030 targets, as proposed in the Fit for 55 package, will unevenly impact sectors, regions, communities and individual people across Europe. To address those concerns, the EESC recommends that the European Commission should undertake a granular mapping and analysis of the impacts the transition will have on employment and skills in the different countries, regions and sectors, including on subcontractors and the downstream value chains. There is no one-size-fits-all, therefore measures aimed at driving the transition will have to be tailor-made reflecting the different realities across Europe, bearing in mind the need for a level-playing field and the different starting points of Member States.
The EU Institutions should develop additional proposals to mobilize massive public and private investments at European and national levels to support the transition in those sectors and regions that will need to be radically transformed to reduce their GHG emissions. In this regard the EESC is of the firm view that the size and scope of the Just Transition Fund should be significantly increased to match the challenges at stake.
The EESC calls on the EU Institutions and Member States to propose a new governance framework to anticipate and manage changes related to the green transition in the world of work. It should also encourage Member States to create tripartite ‘Just Transition Commissions’ to allow regional authorities, social partners and civil society organisations to participate in the implementation of the national and regional Just Transition plans.
The EESC is of the opinion that the EU should work towards the objective of climate neutrality (net-zero greenhouse gas emissions), while ensuring competitiveness and security of energy supply at affordable cost for businesses and citizens. Ensuring European competitiveness should go hand in hand with ensuring that EU competitors adhere to the highest environmental and social standards. Strengthening carbon leakage protection against third country imports is essential to ensure environmental integrity as well as social acceptance of EU climate policy.
The EU regulatory framework needs to ensure that the most competitive businesses in the coming decades will be the frontrunners in sustainable and low carbon business models. The EESC is therefore of the firm opinion that regulations should pave the way for the development and market uptake of new technologies, including demand-side measures to create lead markets and incentivise consumption of low carbon products. Furthermore, all legislative proposals put forward within the framework of Fit for 55 should undergo a competitiveness check in line with SDG principles so that the full implications on enterprise are well understood.
The EESC firmly believes that specific attention must be given to the economic sectors where there is a strong participation of MSMEs. MSMEs have the potential to accelerate innovation in products and solutions to decarbonise the European economy.
There is a strong need for policy coherence, recognising the interlinked nature of the climate and biodiversity crises. Reductions in energy and material consumption, as per Circular Economy, will complement new technologies. Sectoral strategies and funding models should reflect Fit for 55, for example ensuring landowners/land managers/farmers are compensated for natural carbon storage in soils and that environmentally damaging subsidies are stopped.
It is essential to clearly and honestly communicate the costs and the benefits for taking the drastic and extensive actions needed to reach climate neutrality for 2050. These changes will affect all sectors and regions and the benefits may not be immediately felt. Ensuring broad support will require an unprecedented level of understanding and engagement from all members of society.