Promoting an Ambitious Climate Action While Protecting Jobs in a Post-Pandemic Europe

By Peter Liese, MEP (EPP, Germany), Member of the Environment Committee, European Parliament

Fighting the climate crisis is for sure the biggest task of our political generation. We must do more to protect the climate now before we reach a point of no return and future generations have to face the terrifying consequences of uncontrollable global warming.

Achieving the increased ambitions (from 25% to 55% net in less than 10 years) is only possible if everyone who invests in climate-friendly technologies is rewarded and there is a clear market signal that every investment in this respect pays off for individuals and companies. This promotes the creativity of each individual and will ensure that good ideas for climate protection are realised. I am sure that the totality of all citizens will produce better ideas for climate protection than if every detail is prescribed by the state or even the European Union. Therefore, command and control measures alone will not be able to deliver the Green Deal.

With the vaccination campaigns well proceeding all over Europe, we must re-concentrate all our energies on climate policies.

In July, the European Commission has presented its plans to achieve climate neutrality in 2050 and an emission reduction target of net -55% until 2030. If we actually implement this legislative package known as “Fit for 55,” we will not only make an essential step in climate protection but climate protection will finally pay off at every level.

Companies that invest in climate-friendly technologies, will have better economic opportunities and, in particular, every individual who behaves in a climate-friendly way, will save money. Looking at the proposal of the Commission to connect the establishment of a new emissions trading system for heating and transport with a Climate Action Social Fund, it is essential to establish fair compensation and fair relief, especially for the socially disadvantaged. Supporting farmers and forest owners that store CO2 through new business models is also an important step towards achieving the European climate targets in the medium and long term.

Market-based measures combined with standards are the right way to go. This policy mix will not only give strong incentives for a climate protective transition of our way of living and producing but also save the pre-pandemic levels of employment and even improve it through innovative, new business models. Only if all dimensions – climate, economy and society but also individual, state and industry – play together, we will not only protect but even create jobs.

Consequently, if we do it in a smart way, the new EU climate policies will also become a driver for innovation and subsequently jobs. After all, the Green Deal also is a growth strategy.

We must finally overcome the alleged contradiction between economy and climate protection. Undoubtedly, the industry has to play its significant part in the green transition. Still, it is an immense challenge for many, especially small and medium sized companies.

Therefore, we also have to support them and give them the chance to make this green transition. In this context, for example, it is important to maintain the free allocation of certificates in the existing emissions trading system for energy-intensive industry for the time being and create additional incentives to promote environmentally friendly technologies.

Unfortunately, other countries and competitors do not have the same level of ambition as in the EU. For the success of global climate action and the safe future of jobs in Europe, it is essential that we decarbonise the industry and not deindustrialise the EU. Therefore, we need effective measures to avoid carbon leakage and maintain a level playing field for European companies. Moreover, the proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, if compatible with WTO rules, can play an important role to initiate green transition all over the world.

It becomes obvious that the EU cannot act alone. Climate change is a global crisis that needs to be addressed globally.

For sure, the EU is one of the biggest polluters and has to do its part. While we have reduced emissions by 25% in recent years, however, emissions in many other parts of the world have continuously increased. If this continues, our ambitions of emitting zero emissions will only have a limited impact on the global greenhouse gas emissions. This holds especially true if states such as the U.S. or China do not live up to or increase their own climate ambition. That is why we need to put massive pressure on other economies now. And this will be what we will need to be working on at the United Nations climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow in a few months.