Expertise

Climate, Energy & Sustainability

Climate change has made itself more than evident in Europe and the world, as seen by this year’s unprecedented temperatures. Scientific data has been predicting this environmental emergency for long, with examples culminating in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – Earth’s surface temperature will increase by 1.5°C in the next 20 years, and 2°C by 2050 if there is no immediate and drastic change. The status quo urgently needs a paradigm shift: for that, we need to plan concrete action, based on strict deliverables.

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Climate change has made itself more than evident in Europe and the world, as seen by this year’s unprecedented temperatures. Scientific data has been predicting this environmental emergency for long, with examples culminating in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – Earth’s surface temperature will increase by 1.5°C in the next 20 years, and 2°C by 2050 if there is no immediate and drastic change. The status quo urgently needs a paradigm shift: for that, we need to plan concrete action, based on strict deliverables.

The ongoing energy security crisis exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine is creating momentum for a rapid transformation – of the EU’s energy systems most obviously, but also of our society’s course of action. In the incoming months, Friends of Europe will centre its agenda on ways to pave the road to change by considering the current crisis of livelihoods, the required Just Transitions and the challenges of multilateralism.

In the midst of change, it is essential to make the transition to carbon neutrality fair, inclusive, people centred. This means a whole-of-society approach to ensure that ambitious climate goals are shadowed by the virtues of a Just Transition. Accompanying workers through the low-carbon transition and planning the skills set that will be needed for the jobs of the future is a way to guarantee positive social impacts. We are likely to enter the harshest economic climate in recent decades, attention must be paid to the levels of public debt and people’s economic livelihoods when developing solutions. Crucially, short-term solutions must not jeopardise long-term climate goals, and vulnerable citizens must not face the choice between fuel and food.

The question of energy policy will be central as Europe thrives to end dependency on Russian fossil fuels. To this end, the EU must diversify supplies, enhance energy savings and efficiency capacity, and scale up renewable energy sources. Similarly, a central question to tackle in a geopolitical setting is the access to strategic raw materials.

Amongst the pressing issues that affect our societies lays the necessity of rethinking our food systems. This means looking at the deficiencies of our supply chains to ensure that both producers and consumers can access sustainable and innovative solutions, as well as to tackle the excessive waste incurred throughout the process.

To succeed, all stakeholders must live up to their responsibilities and building trust between them will be of the essence. A new normative pro-climate action discourse is needed – one that encourages to build a better future. Policymakers at the EU, national, and local levels should design and implement future-proof policy and regulatory frameworks (including incentives, subsidies, taxes etc.) conducive to sustainable business, while mitigating negative social impact and offering citizens the right tools to adapt to climate-friendly actions. We champion innovation, the key role of digitalisation and technology in speeding up the transition, and the smart, sustainable, and strategic management of resources to avoid new dependency traps.

Against this background, our Climate, Energy and Sustainability 2023 programme aims to discuss required changes in energy production and use, food systems, climate finance, as well as mobility. We will continue exploring what climate action means for a renewed social contract, aiming to produce a set of policy recommendations for the new European Commission, considering the upcoming EU legislative cycle.

Briefing Paper: Climate, Energy & Sustainability, and the Renewed Social Contract 2022

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