CAN Europe Submission regarding the proposal for a Council Recommendation on addressing the social and labour aspects of the just transition towards climate neutrality

Europe in transition

CAN Europe welcomes the European Commission’s Strategic Dialogue on the forthcoming  proposal for a Council Recommendation on addressing the social and labour aspects of the just  transition towards climate neutrality, as well as the possibility to share inputs in writing. 

See here the link on European Commission website and download the PDF at the bottom of the page.

  1. Climate action is social action: The socio-economic costs of climate inaction or of  an unregulated transition needs being acknowledged in the Council  Recommendation  

As noted by the European Central Bank (ECB), “there are clear benefits to acting early: the  short-term costs of the transition pale in comparison to the costs of unfettered climate change in  the medium to long term”. More frequent and severe natural disasters could lead to a decrease  in European GDP, should policies to mitigate climate change not be introduced (i). But beyond the  impact on GDP, the cost of inaction would be immense in terms of humanitarian needs to deal  with climate-related disasters and increase in food prices (ii), public health impacts (iii), or additional  annual welfare loss in Europe (175bn € under a 3°C global warming scenario, and 83bn € under  a 2°C global warming scenario). (iv) 

These adverse social impacts of climate change are already part of the daily life of hundreds of  millions of people living in the Global South, with women especially vulnerable to climate  change’s effects in many countries. Escalating extreme weather events contribute to food  insecurity and conflicts, while climate-induced migration is a rising phenomenon. The poorest  are the less equipped to cope with both the impacts of climate change and an unregulated,  disorderly transition. The same holds true within Europe, as could be seen last summer with  floods and wildfires, with more severe impacts on the poorest and vulnerable people in the  society. The Council should make it clear that climate inaction or further delays is not an  option because of the existing and future appalling social impacts, inside and outside the  EU – a regulated just transition based on climate action is what is needed.

  1. Environmental and social goals are together equally imperative: We need synergies and coherence between social and climate policies 

The lack of political commitment over the last 30 years to firmly engage in the decarbonisation  of our societies and economies means that the window of opportunity to keep humanity in a  safe place is narrowing down every year. As a result, progress will have to be achieved at a  very high speed. Existing socio-economic inequalities, levels of poverty and precariousness in  the EU make the much-needed rapid green transition more challenging. Inequalities, social  injustice and the climate crisis are the result of the same unsustainable economic system that  brought humanity to the current environmental, social and economic crisis we are facing today.  For people living in a precarious socio-economic situation, it is even more difficult to deal with  job losses and the need to re-skill, or to have the resources to invest in cleaner consumption  modes (from transport to heating or cooling, from building renovation to different diets and agro ecological practices). 

Climate action must be designed and implemented with a view to mitigate adverse social  impacts on low-income people, and to generate opportunities for them – beyond the well-known  broader social benefits (health, air quality, etc). Inclusiveness of all representatives of different  segments of the society is a bare minimum to ensure social risks are identified, and ways to  mitigate them should be factored in climate policy processes. However, climate action, even if it  is socially fair, can’t replace robust policies to promote and protect social rights and to address  the root causes of inequality. We therefore call for the Council Recommendation to stress  the importance of building synergies between social policies and climate policies,  avoiding silo approach and conflict between them. This ranges from progressive and  gender-just taxation to universal social protection, implementing the rights to housing, food and  education and fighting gender and other grounds of discrimination across the board. 

  1. Strengthening coordination between different levels of policy making is a must:  We need synergies between national and European policies to strengthen climate  action and social protection” 

EU legislative proposals under Fit for 55 need to include flanking measures to mitigate potential  adverse distributional impacts, i.e. the risk of exacerbating existing inequality. But EU policies  alone will not suffice: we need adequate policies in place at national level to accompany the  decarbonisation of our economy and societies, and ensure the green transition benefits  everyone, and not only the wealthiest. Many policies and measures are in the competence of  Member States or even local and regional authorities, from taxation to social protection.  Complementarity needs to be established between local, national and European socio economic policies. Coordination and coherence between national budgets and EU funds  (Cohesion Policy Funds including the Just Transition Fund, future Climate Social Fund,  Recovery and Resilience Facility) needs strengthening. The European Semester seems the  right mechanism to provide the complementarity and coherence needed; thus, it should leave  much more room for the coordination of national social and climate policies, rather than the  current narrow focus on macro-economic issues – sometimes to the detriment of social fairness  and environmental protection. We call for the Council Recommendation to stress the  importance of strengthening coordination of national and EU policies beyond macro-economics, in order to deliver an orderly just and green transition, and to commit to  taking this on board in the framework of the ongoing review of the EU economic  governance framework.  

  1. The fight against inequality and poverty must be mainstreamed: We need  distributional analysis of all policy proposals, beyond the Fit for 55 

We welcome the intention to make the distributional analysis of EU policy proposals on climate,  energy and environment systematic. However, this also needs to be the case for non-climate  policies, which also risk exacerbating poverty and inequality as climate and environmental policy  is not the driving cause of systemic inequalities. For example, policies geared at encouraging  digitalization or opening up public services to competition, or taxation policies would also  deserve robust distributional analysis. The distributional analysis also needs to look at gender  and other intersecting grounds of discrimination. We call for the Council Recommendation to  require a distributional analysis of all EU policy proposals, and to commit Member States  to embrace distributional impact assessment at national level too. 

  1. Inclusive planning of the uses of money flows for a societal just transformation is  a must: Funding and mechanisms need to be in place to reach those most in need 

Reaching those most in need with financial and other forms of support requires dedicated  efforts, structures and resources, and participatory action at local and regional level. Those  most in need are facing various barriers, from disability to language barriers, illiteracy to time  poverty because cumulating several exhausting poorly-paid jobs or unpaid caretaking duties,  from lack of transportation options to lack of digital skills or equipment. 

We can expect that flanking measures to mitigate the risk of adverse social impacts of climate  policies will require online access/skills. This is why much more robust action is needed to  tackle the digital gap, purposefully targeting those left behind in the so-called digital  transformation. That has not been sufficiently the case so far, including under the Recovery and  Resilience Facility, where people and regions most in need could not participate in the planning  process because thoughtful public participation has not been at the center of the process.  Reaching those most in need may require working with grassroots groups and CSOs, knocking  on people’s door to propose assistance to access the support – and not just a web portal. We  therefore call for the Council Recommendation to make the link between the imperative  to close the digital gap and the possibility to reach those most in need, and the  importance of dedicating resources to make sure those most in need are reached

  1. Consultation with the civil society and the workers is a must: We need systematic  participation mechanisms for CSOs and trade unions 

The role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and social partners in the green and just  transition is crucial on many accounts. They need to be consulted about the programming of  financial instruments and about adequate flanking measures that can be put in place. They are  key to reach those most in need and facilitate participation of people who may be affected by  the climate transition in defining the future of their region and communities. There will be no fair and green transition without civil society, without the people. We therefore call for the Council  Recommendation to stress the role of CSOs and social partners, and to commit to  engage them, support and resource them in order to create an enabling environment  allowing them to perform their various roles. 


i European Central Bank, Occasional Paper Series, ECB economy-wide climate stress Test, 2021,  

ii EU Strategic Foresight Report – The EU’s capacity and freedom to act, 2021,  

iii European Environment Agency: Air quality in Europe – 2020 report 

iv Joint Research Center, Economic analysis of selected climate impacts, 2020,