From protest to action

Written by Cillian Lohan on 12 July 2019 in Opinion

People are making very clear their desire for action on climate change; this sense of urgency must now be translated into action, writes Cillian Lohan

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

The European Parliament election results have confirmed that the electorate is demanding a response to the climate crisis.

The ‘Climate Strikes’ have reinforced the fact that young people feel disillusioned and, paradoxically, empowered; disillusioned with the current inaction on climate, but empowered by their strength in numbers and the response to their protests.

The challenge is to ensure that the initial positive political reaction is translated into policy action. This is critical for reflecting the needs and desires of citizens.


Civil society has taken a strong position on this; the EESC has adoptive pro-action supportive positions through its opinions.

The 2030 Agenda has to be the undisputed and overarching priority for the European Union for the next decade.

The European Parliament, Council and Commission are all also behind the SDG implementation.

The European Parliament’s March 2019 “Annual strategic report on the implementation and delivery of the SDGs” captures the required sense of urgency.

It underlines that sustainable development is one of the EU’s fundamental objectives, as laid down in Article 3(3) of TFEU. What is the link between these SDGs and the Climate Action required

 The SDGs are a tool for achieving a low-carbon society that already has support. Goal 13 is even called Climate Action.

Other goals provide the detail of the context for this action to take place – Affordable and Clean Energy (Goal 7), Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11) and Responsible Production and Consumption (Goal 12).

The EESC and the Council have called for an overarching strategy from the new Commission to ensure a coherent response and to maximise the potential of legislative drivers for change.

For example, the next phase of the circular economy can be intrinsically linked to low-carbon solutions.

The policy foundations for turning protests into action are already there. The institutions are consistent in their support.

So, what next? The next step is to take the practical policy tools – such as the circular economy – and turn them into mechanisms for delivering on the SDGs.

In turn, this will lead to action on creating a low-carbon society. It will be essential to ensure that the price for achieving sustainable low-carbon lifestyles is not be borne by the most vulnerable or those least able to pay.

“The 2030 Agenda has to be the undisputed and overarching priority for the European Union for the next decade”

This includes those who do not have alternative options available. Inclusive solutions can reduce inequalities (SDG Goal10).

There must be a focus on infrastructure investment (SDG Goal 9) and support systems that allow society to function in a low-carbon model.

Only this way can all citizens be empowered to have a reasonable and accessible alternative to the high-emissions lifestyle that we have grown dependent on.

Climate action is being demanded by the people - it will have to come from many quarters. The institutions can use existing tools to play their part.

Legislators can build on this with further coherent ambitions to create an enabling framework for action from all sectors.

Partnerships and working together will be key in meeting the challenges of the climate crisis.

There needs to be action from many angles, and it needs to be facilitated so that its effects can be amplified. A strong Europe can deliver on coherent action.

About the author

Cillian Lohan is a member of the EESC


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