EESC calls for social pact for energy transition driven by all
We need to move from decisions by a few to action by all, the Committee suggestsMaria Koleva , Brussels
Europe needs a “Social Pact for a Citizen-driven Energy Transition”, to be agreed by the EU, Member States, regions, cities, social partners and organised civil society, in order to ensure that the transition leaves no one behind, urges the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in its fourth yearly opinion on the State of the Energy Union.
In the opinion, adopted at the July session of the EESC, this consultative body of the Union assesses the progress made up to now and highlights that “the Energy Union is not a reality yet”.
The Committee says the pact should be part of the European Pillar of Social Rights, becoming “the sixth dimension” of the Energy Union and covering all social aspects, including quality job creation, vocational training, consumer education and training, social protection, specific plans for transition regions where jobs are lost, health and energy poverty.
Noting that the Energy Union is a reality in terms of EU policy decisions, Christophe Quarez, who drafted the opinion, underlined that the energy transition had not yet happened on the ground and is not a reality in the daily lives of European citizens. Now that EU policy makers have laid the foundations of the Energy Union, a lot remains to be done in the next few years, he said.
How the Energy Union can deliver to wipe out energy poverty in the EU? The launch of the Energy Poverty Observatory is a first step in this direction. A European action plan should be drawn up to ensure that public action increasingly targets its root causes, the EESC opines, adding that it is important to extend the mandate and resources of the Observatory to cover not only heating poverty, but also cooling poverty and mobility poverty.
The Committee advocates as well for change of format in the decision-making process for energy policy, both at EU and national level. It is key - we need to move from decisions by a few to action by all, the EESC insists.
The transformation of Europe's energy system will be swifter, cheaper and more democratic if it is put in place by people who increasingly become its active consumers, prosumers, workers, crowdsourcers and crowdfunders, the opinion asserts. This has never been so achievable, given the rise in climate awareness among EU citizens, especially Europe's young people, the rapporteur emphasised.
In its opinion, the Committee reiterates its support for the objectives of the Energy Union and stresses the importance of the engagement and mobilisation of European society in its entirety and taking full ownership.
On the climate front, the EESC suggests that citizens should be able to constantly contribute to all major political decisions relating to climate change, especially at EU level.
The other proposal in the opinion is for the establishment of a permanent citizens' dialogue, where the watchwords are transparency and accountability - input into the dialogue should be publicly available, as well as information on how the concerns raised are taken into account. People must feel close to the dialogue and be in a position to interact through internet platforms, face-to-face meetings and direct contact with the public at large.
The Committee calls on the Commission to make sure that the 2020 energy and climate targets are respected by Member States. The opinion recalls that national governments often have different views on the subject and there is sometimes a difference between what they vote for in Brussels and what they implement at home. The EESC also urges the next European Commission to make the fight against climate change a top priority for its 2019-2024 term.