Climate change remains a critical global issue, with the past five years marked by a surge in efforts to establish robust climate policies across the EU. Undeterred by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, these efforts have intensified, driven by the recognition of climate action and a just energy transition’s vital role in securing energy supply and a sustainable future. This intensification of the green transition presents an opportunity to advocate for comprehensive climate policies that simultaneously address environmental concerns and foster socio-economic benefits.
see recorded event
On November 16th, 2023, CAN Europe convened a panel discussion to explore the co-benefits of accelerated climate action, with special focus on Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The diverse panel of experts, including Martin Hojsik, MEP at Renew (Slovakia), Gabriela Měsícová from Change for the Better (Czechia), Denis Haveaux from Habitat for Humanity International, and Zofia Wetmańska from the Reform Institute (Poland), provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of accelerated climate action in CEE.
This event also launched a CAN Europe report analysing the potential benefits of accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy system in line with the Paris Agreement. Our colleague, Olivier Vardakoulias, presented the main findings of this report comparing the investment needs and energy system costs of an accelerated transition pathway to a less ambitious one. The findings indicate that the direct co-benefits of accelerated energy transition could reach up to 10% of GDP by 2030, These findings highlight the significant economic advantages of transitioning to clean energy sources more rapidly, including job creation, improved air quality, and reduced healthcare costs.
The event was opened by a keynote speech from Chiara Martinelli, the director of CAN Europe. She shared that in parallel to the positive momentum of the EU’s green transition we see a broadening of false narratives. These aim to fuel the message that climate and social policies are one against the other, even “accusing” climate and energy policies as being too costly and the ones causing inequalities, poverty, insecurity while the root causes of inequalities are rooted exactly in the same economic system based on fossil fuels economy that is also the main cause of climate change. While we keep working for an acceleration of climate action at all levels we also have to counter this trend and stress – energy transition makes sense economically and socially as well.
The panel discussion continued to unpack this topic and underscored the importance of accelerated climate action, not only for environmental sustainability but also for socio-economic prosperity. Zofia Wetmańska emphasized the need to reframe the climate change narrative specific for Poland and many Central Eastern European countries, shifting from one of fear and financial burden to one of opportunity and tangible benefits. This shift is crucial to mobilize voters and underscore the urgency of climate action. Engagement is essential to gain broad public support, and individual governments can effectively address social concerns related to climate change. Martin Hojsik highlighted the importance of effective communication of climate action’s long-term benefits. Tailored messaging, targeting key voter groups, should emphasize the hope and opportunities presented by climate action for ordinary people and citizens instead of underlining limitations: “The narrative should be about CAN and not BAN”. Aiming high and not dwelling on challenges is essential. The figures from the report can serve as a good basis to define and communicate particular socio-economic co-benefits that would appeal to the citizens, that would send a clear message for climate action opportunities “here and now”.
Gabriela Měsícová stressed that businesses are growing aware of climate change’s risks and are actively taking steps to mitigate them. For example, the insurance industry is adapting to climate change by developing novel products and services. The EU must acknowledge the urgency of climate action and take decisive steps to address it. For businesses, the primary narrative is that green solutions will generate cost savings. For the broader public, the primary narrative is the impending danger of climate change. Climate action represents a strategic, economic, and social imperative.
Denis Haveaux emphasised the importance of clear and accessible messaging targeted to specific audiences. The EU should prioritise highlighting climate action’s health benefits. Engagement with political parties and the development of tailored national climate action plans are also crucial. Civil society organisations should showcase their role in implementing legislation. Recognizing decision-makers’ political objectives and advocating for climate action constructively, focusing on the benefits of green solutions is essential.
The crucial aspect to be addressed towards the EP election in 2024 is to build hopes for the most vulnerable, as the public discussion will focus on the costs of living. We should stay optimistic, and act in a collective responsibility to unlock potentials of accelerated climate action and pave the way for a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous world.