For the last year and a half, we have lived a changed reality. We worked more often from home, we spent less time with our extended families and we scarcely cooked for - or enjoyed - dinner with friends. While health and safety considerations have been a dominant narrative for pretty much most of the world, our planet continued on its own course.
We witnessed the deadly flooding across Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, forest fires burning through Greece and Cyprus, and heatwaves baking parts of the United States and beyond.
We know we must protect our climate - but do we know how to do it, so that no one is left behind?
What is on the table?
Just before the summer break the European Commission presented its so-called 'Fit for 55' package, a mammoth law package of energy and climate laws aimed at translating the 55 percent CO2 reduction target into concrete new rules for transport, industry, buildings and other sectors. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the emissions in Europe by mid-century.
For the EPP Group, being climate-neutral by 2050 means undertaking an enormous challenge, which requires a far-reaching transformation of our economies and societies.
We expect the European Commission to do that in a smart way, following our three main paradigms:
- We want to create, not destroy, jobs and economic opportunities.
- We want Europe to scale up its innovation and remain competitive.
- We want to make sure everyone, not only wealthy elites, is on board.
We want to fight climate change with innovation, competitiveness and European jobs.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many jobs were lost or are currently under threat. Europeans, but in particular the youth, need jobs to build up a brighter future. Just looking at the available numbers we see that the youth unemployment rate in the European Union rose to 17.1 percent in the beginning of 2021, which is over 2 percent higher than in the previous year, before the pandemic, which started in March. More illustratively, over half a million young French and Spanish under the age of 25 are currently unemployed in each of the two Member States. Therefore, we expect the European Commission to do everything possible to avoid a lost generation of young Europeans.
Innovation and competitiveness
For the EPP Group, strong industry and global technological competitiveness have always been at the centre of attention. We must - and want - to fight climate change with innovation and jobs. We want to turn the necessary transformation into an opportunity. We want de-carbonisation, not de-industrialisation. For instance, speaking of a concrete issue: clean cars. The EPP Group wants to prioritise the development of clean vehicles, electric mobility and zero-emission fuels. But we do not want the debate about CO2 emissions from cars to turn into another ideological battle of dogmas. We do not only want to set targets, but find the best way for Europe to reach these targets.
Since much will also depend on the rollout of charging infrastructure, the EPP Group insists on regular European Commission reporting on progress made and its implications for the realisation of the CO2 reduction targets.
Leaving no one behind
The transition from coal dependent areas to a cleaner and greener Europe will be difficult. It will be crucial to be watchful that low-income families, middle-class homeowners and car-owners in rural areas without public transport will not be the ones paying the highest bill.
For the EPP Group, the energy transition should not only be feasible for Tesla drivers with a charging station in the front yard, but also for any Polish, French or Spanish family.
From the European Commission we want guarantees that the invested money will help people and companies to make the switch to more sustainable mobility throughout Europe and not just fill the coffers of the Member States. This should not be a simple transfer to Member States: the Commission should ensure that compensation reaches those who need it most.
We therefore insist on a credible Social Facility to address heating poverty and mobility poverty within and between Member States.
How does it end?
If we are smart, no one will be left behind.
The enormous challenge of transitioning to a cleaner future that awaits us can be realised efficiently and effectively - if we find the right mix of CO2 pricing, targets and regulation, combined with an appropriate investment framework.
We must make sure that the social dimension of the green transition stays on course and is not overlooked.
Note to editors
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 179 Members from all EU Member States