European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen gave her annual state of the Union speech last week.
As one of the reactions, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), one of the most influential advocacy NGOs at the EU level, provided its thoughts on how to speed up the enforcement of the EU Green Deal (driving the EU’s climate and energy actions) in a socially just manner.
EEB’s reactions addressing social justice are the followings:
- “A fundamental commitment to social justice: in facing fuel prices, inflation and the cost of living, and in the energy and ecological transition. Support for heat pumps, home insulation, and affordable public transport are key to avoiding fuel and transport poverty. These can be partly financed by taxes on windfall profits. There will be temptations to subsidize fuel prices to solve the problem. With limited energy supplies, subsidies risk being costly and in very many cases futile. Where subsidies are implemented, they must be temporary to avoid entrenching fossil fuel use. Supporting a well-funded and well-governed Social Climate Fund in the trilogues between the Commission, Council and Parliament will also be essential.
- Energy transition – commit to full independence from Russian fossil fuels and accelerate the move to a net zero economy with a 100% renewable future and deep energy efficiency in businesses and homes. Put in place measures to facilitate a shift to nature-positive renewables. Specific focus should be on community-based renewables that support citizens’ agency and empowerment and help regenerate the social fabric of society. Renewables can help ensure sustainable and affordable energy for Europe.
- The REPowerEU package is welcome, but we should resist the temptation to roll back needed environmental protections and public consultations. There are plenty of go-to areas to invest in nature-positive renewables without weakening our laws and citizen buy-in is essential. The commitment to hydrogen is welcome, but given conversion losses and leakage of the smallest molecule in the world, its use should be limited to industries in which direct electrification is currently not possible and some areas of transport. The temptation to update the gas grid to a hydrogen grid and replace fossil gas with hydrogen in our homes should be resisted – direct electrification, renewables and energy savings can reach our objectives more economically.”
In case these recommendations are being listened to, energy poverty through enhancing residential energy efficiency could be also mitigated.