European lawmakers are in the driving seat and should be steering EU Member States towards a new economic model that safeguards the environment, respects our workers’ rights and injects new life into the economy. For the European Commission to declare that the European Green Deal is a priority is positive step.
However, this positivity should not be restricted to attractive news headlines but rather translated into decisions that must be taken in all sectors.
If the EU is committed to the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the time for action is now. Our citizens, particularly young people, are calling for change.
In my meetings with civil society organisations, environmental NGOs, workers’ unions and industry representatives, there is a common understanding that we need policy and schemes that incentivise the economy, that encourage businesses to become more sustainable and where workers and students are trained and prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.
What we need is an economic, social and ecological transformation of Europe, one that is both sustainable and climate-neutral.
This is the political vision that guides my role as the Vice-President of the Socialists and Democrats group responsible for the European Green Deal and as a Maltese Member of the European Parliament.
The basis for all of this is the principle that no one should be left behind. Our work is to list these priorities and identify both the challenges and opportunities. Facing challenges head on is what will, at the end of the day, provide us with practical solutions.
"What we need is an economic, social and ecological transformation of Europe, one that is both sustainable and climate neutral"
However, the European Commission needs to step outside of the Brussels bubble and draft its policies together with stakeholders at national, regional and local levels. It has to be a bottom-up approach. For this plan to work, everyone has to play their part.
First, we need to bring about a change in mentality; a change in the way all of us look at the economy. We need to move away from the traditional economic model to more innovative solutions. The sustainability of an operation or service should no longer be an afterthought, but rather a key aspect of any business.
Importantly, investments should not only be profitable but also be socially just and environmentally sustainable.
For years, we have spoken of renewable energy targets, moving away from polluting fossil fuels, pushing for efficiency in buildings and energy consumption, encouraging consumers to opt for cleaner solutions and more.
However, the priorities of the European Commission must shift too; it must dedicate more funding to research and innovation, knowledge, science and transforming our educational programmes.
We are living in an era of big changes, where Industry 4.0 is not only about digitisation and automation but, importantly, about sustainability too.
The S&D group has called on the European Commission to present a European Climate Law with a legally-binding goal for reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest, with an intermediate target of at least 55 percent for 2030 and a further target for 2040.
This ambitious law must reflect the best available science, with the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is imperative that the Climate Law includes specific adaptation components that require all Member States to adopt adaptation action plans.
"It is important that all sectors contribute and that there should be no scapegoats"
We expect immediate action from the Commission to introduce all the required legislative and non-legislative proposals within the next two years, making sure that all sectors contribute to achieving the required emission reduction targets and that there should be no scapegoats.
For example, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy are also important climate and sustainability tools. So, in order to help these sectors do their part, we must also help and support farmers and fishermen.
This is also an opportunity for the EU to collaborate with its partners and to propose partnerships with third countries and neighbouring continents on major projects.
The focus of these projects must be carbon neutrality, such as developing clean energy technology projects with northern African countries and other neighbouring regions.
This is the EU’s chance to have a strong economy, by competing with knowledge and innovation rather than with low wages and precarious conditions.
Putting people first is a must and therefore we need to ensure active public participation and confidence in the process, if these policies are to be accepted and integrated into everyday life.