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Speech by Commissioner Schmit at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum event ‘Social & climate justice @ CEM in challenging times: Moving to the next level'

Speech given recently (23 September 2022) by Commissioner Schmit at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum event ‘Social & climate justice @ CEM in challenging times: Moving to the next level'.

"Check against delivery"

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

I want to thank the US government for organising this conference of the Global Clean Energy Action Forum.

First of all I would like to express my regret at not being able to be with you today in person as I had planned. Nonetheless, it is certainly a great pleasure for the European Commission to host this event on Social and climate justice here at the Clean Energy Ministerial. 

We all agree that when it comes to tackling climate change: inaction is not an option. 

With this in mind, the EU pledged to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, under the  European Green Deal. This commitment has been enshrined for the first time in a European Climate Law, which is binding on the 27 EU Member States.

To deliver on the Green Deal, the European Commission unveiled in July 2021 a comprehensive policy package called ‘Fit for 55' to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. 

The current context – Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the accompanying high inflation – reinforces the need to act and to accelerate the energy transition and save energy to ensure a sustainable, resilient and fair economy.

On the 18th of May this year, the European Commission presented REPowerEU, the EU's ground-breaking plan to phase out its dependency on Russian fossil fuels through, first and foremost, the accelerated roll-out of renewable energy.

Renewables are the best answer to rising energy prices. The old carbon-heavy energies – coal, oil and gas – are getting more and more expensive, whereas renewable-energy costs have been falling steadily for many years. The EU raised its target for renewable energy production in 2030 from 40% to 45%. 

There is also growing evidence that, to tackle climate change, we need to address the large inequalities in carbon emissions. Recent data shows that the top 10% of emitters are responsible for close to 50% of all CO2 emissions, while the bottom 50% for only 12% of the total. 

Today I would like to focus on the employment and social implications of these major evolutions.

The clean energy transition has serious potential for job creation and the economy.

If we put the right policies and conditions in place, an additional 2 million jobs could be created by 2050 in sectors such as sustainable transport, renewable energy production and the circular economy.

In a new survey carried out in the EU which will be published in the coming days, 90% of people asked agreed that the green transition should not leave anyone behind.

But only 57% agreed that policies to fight climate change will create more new jobs than they will remove. So we still have some more convincing to do – not through our words but through our actions.

We have to remain hyper aware of the different ways in which the green transition affects different regions and demographics of the population, the so-called distributional impact. 

You have heard it said many times – the transition must be “fair and inclusive”. But how can we make sure that it is?

I believe the answer lies in investing heavily and immediately in quality jobs, income support, affordable services and - above all - skilling people.

While there may be no such thing as “the right skills”, I would argue that there are “the most needed skills”. 

Skills mapping is essential. It allows us to identify the sectors and domains that have - or will have – huge demand, or those that are experiencing labour shortages. This information can then be fed back to the education and training institutes to target their programmes and prepare learners for the rapidly-evolving labour market.

We also need companies and employers to play a leadership role. At the end of 2020 the Commission launched the Pact for Skills, which brings together companies, academic institutions, worker organisations, public employment services and others, sector by sector, to have a frank exchange about what the skills gaps are, and how we can close them. 

So far, more than 700 organisations have signed up to the Pact and 12 large scale partnerships have been set up, with pledges to help upskill up to 6 million people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Looking at the social impact of climate and energy policy is not just the garnish we add to the meal at the end - it is one of the fundamental ingredients. 

We need a true whole-of-economy, whole-of-society approach. As President von der Leyen calls it “an economy that works for people.”

This Commission believes it is our collective duty to act swiftly and effectively to meet our ambitious social and climate targets, to create opportunities so that people can find their path, and to offer protection and support to those who need it the most. 

We will further support social and climate justice internationally, including in the context of the Clean Energy Ministerial. I look forward to our discussions and joint work on these issues over the coming months, in the run-up to CEM-14 in India. 

I count on your support and your good ideas to make this endeavour a success.

I wish you an excellent discussion.

Thank you very much.


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