High-level public conference on the European green deal :take home messages

High-level public conference on implementing the European green deal – the European climate law

The European Commission plans to propose the first European Climate Law in the first 100 days of its mandate. The Climate Law will set the direction of travel for EU climate action, give predictability for investors, and anchor the irreversibility of the transformation.

As an overarching piece of legislation, the Climate Law will set out the goal of all climate action – protecting people and our planet against climate change.

In this context, the Commission is organising a High-level Public Conference to provide an opportunity for open, public stakeholder debate on the European Climate Law before its finalisation and adoption.

In opening the Conference, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the EU Commission stated that the EU has objective to become carbon neutral by 2050. Climate change is taking a heavy toll on nature and humans at an increasing pace. Choosing to do something and investing money on this it is more intelligent than if we do not do anything and spend money on mitigation of escalation of climate change. Doing nothing doesn’t mean that things as we know today will stay the same: climate change is a reality. By acting we can instead tackle the problem. This is not just an economic change, we have a collective responsibility to change our growth model. A lot of effort is required. This is a great opportunity for Europe to lead the world.

However, things need to be done with common sense and sound judgment: there is a need to take into account different national situations and starting points: that is why the Commission has devised a Just Transition Mechanism with a strong financial backing to address the specific challenges encountered by certain regions, which will be most affected by the transformation.

Other panellists intervened:

Marco Mensink Director General, European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic):

The Green Deal should make sure to attract investment in Europe, and not outsource the benefits in other regions of the world. The first investors in new technologies may not make money, but when upscaled profits need to be realized. We need European climate champions when people start upscaling first commercial plants. The chemical industry is expected to become a net sink, but we need more clarity and a real impact assessment. The journey is exciting: we don’t know how to get there but we know where we go. A clear industrial strategy is needed to make sure European industries remain competitive. DG COMP and DG TRADE need to be included in the discussion.

Pascal Canfin: Chair of the ENVI Committee of the European Parliament:

For the first time climate targets will be decided under the codecision procedure (qualified majority in the target). If sector details are to be enshrined in climate law then it will be very difficult to pass it. Let’s make it simple and fast.  The target for 2030 is to have in climate law -55% of CO2 emissions vs 1990: that’s the majority we have in parliament. This is both feasible and needed. Mitigation and adaptation: two pillars of climate law. The message to the Commission from the Environment Committee is that ENVI vote should be around June. We need to have as quickly as possible an impact assessment. If we go for a higher carbon price in the EU we need to make sure we have a level-playing field with our competitors.

Wendel Trio, Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe:

Some negative impacts are unavoidable, but we need to act as strong and possible. The current reality is that individual commitments that countries have made will bring to +2-+3 degrees of temperature increase. Policy coherence must be there: all sectoral targets must be in line with 1.5 degrees. Actions in the short term are also important. Next COP in Glasgow should really deliver on ambition, and the NGOs expect the EU to lead. Also, when dealing with other players we need to emphasize green deal (diplomacy, trade).

Alexander Canal, Secretary General, Generation Climate Europe:

We need to stop fossil fuel subsidies, and also to have a climate law impact assessment whilst ensuring policy coherence. We also need to check that climate law is properly enforced.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO, SolarPower Europe:

We need to grasp the benefits and opportunities which we will have with the transformation. Costs of renewables have come down considerably in the last few years and following business as usual will cost us more. This is a golden opportunity to have 4th industrial revolution. Renewables can provide high-quality local jobs. Also, renewables guarantee security of supply: we are currently paying 5 billion euro a week for fossil fuels import in Europe.

Michal Kurtyka, Minister of Climate of Poland:

The transition is important to do and needs to be done but it is not easy. It is important to secure energy supply. At the moment neither solar nor wind guarantee that. There is a need to mobilize capital for transition, and in some Member States there is less capital. We need to develop zero emissions technology (both for shipping and aviation) and there is a lack of proper pricing in those sectors.

Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General, Copa Cogeca:

The agricultural sector now doesn’t use some of the chemicals thanks to innovation. Europe is a world leader in producing seeds. All this shows that supporting innovation is important. But the next generation businesses are at the mercy of international markets; common policies and Common Agricultural Policy can help make transition in the farms easier but needs to be in line with the markets. Let’s use CAP funds to enable transition. We need to empower consumers. Energy efficiency should be part of the Green Deal.

Monica Frassoni, President, European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE):

The Clean Energy for All legislation needs to be re-opened. The reform of the Emission Trading Scheme is fundamental. We need million of people with improved digital skills.

Luca Visentini, Secretary General, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC):

Climate change is and will be more and more a driver of inequality. Workers are most affected by climate change and transition if not done well will be harmful for workers. We need to have an economic model that is not based on cheap labour and social dumping any longer. Green deal is an extraordinary opportunity. There is a robust just transition dimension now. We need to target sectors and local communities and not just countries in general. The available funds are not sufficient to deal with these huge challenges. Either we reduce funds for other recipients in the EU budget, or EU states need to contribute more.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President, European Commission:

In order to make green deal a reality we need a lot of investment (260 billion euro a year to make 2030 targets a reality). Public finance needs to lead the way, but private sector needs to help to scale up efforts. Investors have it easier thanks to legislation on taxonomy to see which economic activities can be classified as sustainable. Other non-EU countries need to play their part: we need global cooperation

Ester Asin, Director, WWF European Policy Office:

We need a lot of public investment (the current level of investment is very low and doesn’t match the level of ambition). Private investment is needed and we need to stop supporting to fossil fuels. To meet challenge of green transition the next Multiannual Financial Framework (EU budget) needs to be up to the task: the foreseen 25% of spending of climate is low, we need up to 50% of budget dedicated to climate and investment and there is also a need to expand brown taxonomy.

Guntram Wolff, Director, Bruegel:

Global CO2 emissions keep going up and even in the EU are not really falling. There’s not enough money on the table to make the transition happen. The CAP is bad for climate and biodiversity and as a result the EU should be more daring in re-prioritize EU money. Significant amount of fossil fuel subsidies (coal) need to be phased out and shift them to greens. CAP supporting not just rural areas but also big farms. We won’t succeed if we leave people behind.

Mr Timmermans had some closing remarks. He stressed that stakeholders agree on the ultimate goal, but how to get there needs to be agreed upon. The expectations of the European Parliament can be met by the EU commission. The challenge is big because we are not just shifting economic model but also reinventing governance.

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