Durban: Europe should go beyond business as usual and push a Sustainable New Deal
National and European concerns about the potential for economic depression in Europe are dominating choices on long-term policymaking. The current official narrative of severe austerity measures is thwarting the ambition and action we need to combat climate change whilst promoting social justice. The market alone will not deliver radically lower climate-damaging emissions, nor will leaving it to chance. Our politicians in Durban and at home should be focusing on encouraging active, strong public policies and promoting investment in energy – and resource-efficiency. These policies will create and maintain jobs, and provide a decent standard of living.
With higher unemployment (especially for the young), ever deeper cuts in wages and pensions, increasingly insecure working conditions, and rising poverty, social exclusion and social inequalities, the ETUC is actively promoting an alternative. An alternative which stabilises the economy promoting sustainable growth, through investment in the transformation of industries and the promotion of infrastructure modernisation; which creates and maintains good quality jobs in existing and emerging sectors in all regions of Europe; and which takes Europe’s leadership internationally on climate mitigation and adaptation as a central pillar in a sustainable development agenda domestically.
At the ETUC, we have suggestions on how to achieve this:
- The EU should ensure its domestic target reflects the IPCC’s recommendation for developed countries (-25 to -40% domestic CO2 emissions by 2020), through strong binding energy efficiency standards and investment in renewables. This target should be seen in the context of a longer-term policy to achieve -80 to -95% by 2050 on 1990 levels, and within a framework guaranteeing a Just Transition.
- We should keep our promises and ask others to do the same. Europe should bring forward the funds promised for the period 2013-2020, in the framework of the Fast Start Finance package concluded in 2012, as well as a third of the total amount of $100 billion annually as from 2020. This should be additional to EU member states’ responsibilities to provide 0.7% GDP in overseas development aid, and not substitute this earlier commitment.
- The low price of CO2 urgently needs addressing if we are to give the right price signals to launch the transition. A CO2 tax should reflect the internalisation of external costs in investment risk calculations, whilst protecting the most vulnerable. Investment flows must be redirected to support R&D and innovation in low-carbon technologies and processes.
- The reform of existing European funds would benefit investment in progressive social and environmental projects. However, new ways of providing solidarity in the crisis and rebalancing the economy are needed, such as Eurobonds and a Financial Transaction Tax to stimulate sustainable investment and lever private capital towards sustainable economic development policies.
- A poorly managed social transition to a low-carbon economy will result in higher social and economic costs and threatens a backlash against climate policy. Therefore, the ETUC is calling for a European Just Transition Roadmap to implement this international commitment agreed in Cancun/COP16. The Roadmap should be drawn up in collaboration with unions and should include: the active promotion of social dialogue at all levels, sectoral roadmaps managing the transition and targeting investment, public-led education and training strategies, instruments on the anticipation of change and restructuring, the promotion of strong and effective social protection systems, and the respect for fundamental trade union rights and human rights.
The ETUC believes that without ambitious climate targets and decisive leadership on climate and energy policies now, the economic, environmental and social situation will continue to deteriorate. We are convinced that in order to stimulate sustainable growth in Europe, we will need increased ambition and not just business as usual. In the face of the current assault on welfare provisions, social rights and collective bargaining systems, workers in Europe are fighting for a Sustainable New Deal for Europe, putting the needs of people and planet before profits.
GUEST POST: Judith Kirton-Darling is Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation. Before being elected to this role, she was the Industrial Policy and Steel Sector Advisor for the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF).