Plenary remarks by Executive Vice-Presidents Timmermans and Dombrovskis on the European Green Deal Investment Plan and the Just Transition Mechanism - EU monitor

EU monitor
Zondag 25 oktober 2020

Plenary remarks by Executive Vice-Presidents Timmermans and Dombrovskis on the European Green Deal Investment Plan and the Just Transition Mechanism

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 14 januari 2020.

Executive Vice-President Timmermans:

Honourable Members,

Just last month - and ten days into the office - the Commission was in this Parliament to present the Green Deal i for Europe. Our answer to the millions of citizens who demand action on the climate and our proposed roadmap to make Europe the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050.

Now, merely four weeks later, we're here again, with a financial package to back that goal:

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    A European Green Deal Investment plan for all the opportunities that the green transition offers;
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    And a Just Transition Mechanism which is our pledge of solidarity and fairness for those who face the deepest challenge to make this journey with us.

Valdis will talk about the European Green Deal Investment Plan. But let me start with the Just Transition Mechanism.

What we are doing here is a message to coal miners in Asturias, Western Macedonia or Silesia. To the peat harvesters in the Irish Midlands. Baltic regions reliant on oil shale, and many more.

We know that you face a steeper path towards climate neutrality. And we know that the prospect of a different future, a cleaner one, might be a welcoming prospect in general, but the road to it looks daunting today.

This Just Transition Mechanism - of at least 100 billion euros - is a pledge that the European Union stands with you in this transition.

We propose three pillars to do this.

First, 7.5 billion euros of fresh European money, on top of what the Commission proposed for the future EU i budget, in our Just Transition Fund.

This will generate 30 to 50 billion euros of investment. Money that can be used for:

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    workers to learn new skills for jobs of the future;
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    support for new businesses to bring new employment opportunities;
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    investments in clean energy;
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    and repurposing of industrial facilities to prepare the ground for new activities.

Second, we will offer a dedicated access to Europe's investment programme, InvestEU, for the just transition.

This will mobilise private funds for a total of up to 45 billion euros, to help regions bring new sustainable businesses to replace the polluting ones and put new skills to use.

Wherever industries want to contribute to climate neutrality, we will help with investments to move to new technologies and keep jobs in the regions.

And thirdly, special loans from the European Investment Bank, backed by the EU budget, for local authorities, regions and public agencies to fund green projects- help people insulate their homes, for example.

Affordable loans will also help bring modern heating services to the most affected communities which rely on coal or wood to keep themselves warm during winter.

We know that the most affected regions are searching for good ideas and need extra help with projects. So we will deliver project support and bring all regional experiences together in our Just Transition Platform.

Today's proposal is very urgent and this Parliament knows it as it is the author intellectualis of this idea. You have come up with the idea of a Just transition Fund. We also expect Council to accommodate it in the negotiations on the next seven-year budget for Europe and call for a swift adoption.

We invite Member States to identify the regions that need the money and our practical support, and to work with the Commission on a concrete plan for change.

This will be a collective effort involving regions, local governments, social partners, industries and civil society. Everyone must be involved. This transition has to be locally-owned so that our citizens can support it.

Honourable Members, we know that these 100 billion euros are a start. Fairness goes far beyond this Mechanism alone.

Climate change will touch the social foundations of our society. Renewable energy, green jobs, clean air to breathe and fresh water to drink - these are the wealth items of tomorrow. Everyone, especially the most vulnerable should reap benefits from this change.

That fairness will inspire all our proposals under the Green Deal. We want cars that are clean and affordable, help for people to insulate their homes and green jobs with a minimum wage for a decent living. We want to cut the unacceptable 400,000 premature deaths from the poisonous fumes in our cities and regions.

Honourable Members- we have the skills, brains and technology to deliver our Green Deal. Today, we renew our pledge to do that with our heart - and leave no one behind.

Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis:

Madame Chair, Honourable Members,

The European Green Deal sets out our ambition to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We have no choice: we must succeed. This is something we owe to our citizens, and to the next generations.

The Sustainable Europe Investment Plan - the European Green Deal Investment Plan - adopted by the Commission today, fills this commitment with life - and with much-needed financing.

The strengths and novelty of this plan is that it brings together new policy initiatives and existing instruments. We are sending a clear signal to public authorities, companies and investors we need to think ‘green' when we invest.

Let me outline the three pillars of our Plan.

First comes funding: the Plan will mobilise at least EUR 1 trillion of sustainable investments over the next decade.

The EU budget with its 25% climate mainstreaming target will add up to around half of this amount and we will also use our leverage.

Through InvestEU, we will mobilise some EUR 279 billion of public and private funds for climate and environmentally friendly investments.

So, the greener EU budget will lead by example!

National co-financing for green projects accounts for another EUR 114billion. As Frans just explained, the Just Transition Mechanism will aim to reach EUR 100 billion over the next MFF.

Beyond the EU budget, we will also tap the Innovation and Modernisation funds under the Emissions Trading Scheme.

I would also like to mention the EIB's aim to raise its percentage of sustainable financing from 25% to 50% by 2025.

Second, we are putting forward conditions to enable public authorities and private operators to invest sustainably. Clear rules are a powerful incentive.

With your support, we recently agreed on taxonomy as a tool to identify what are ‘green' financial and economic activities.

So now, we will explore how this taxonomy can be used not only in private but also in the public sector, and later this year we will follow it up with a renewed sustainable finance Action Plan.

We will propose legislation on green public procurement and revise State Aid rules in light the Green Deal.

Third: it's not all about funds. It is also about concrete projects. We will provide national administrations and project promoters with expertise to design quality projects and implement them.

We will work with the EIB and other institutions to align their activities with the Green Deal objectives.

Honourable members, moving to the second part of our debate which is a Roadmap of Social Europe, something I would like to emphasise as Executive Vice President responsible for an Economy that works for people is that our green transition must be just and inclusive.

Social considerations remain centre stage.

Both you and the European Council have underlined the need to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. We are committed to it.

Today's communication on A Strong Social Europe for Just Transition is our roadmap to turn the Pillar into reality.

However, we know that many actions can only be taken at national or stakeholder level. That's why we are launching a broader debate to seek views on what more can be done.

We want to hear what efforts all partners can commit to, to make the Pillar a reality.

Today we're starting to consult our social partners on the need and possible directions of EU action for a fair minimum wage.

The Commission has pledged to present a legal instrument to ensure that workers earn enough to support themselves.

To be clear: it's neither about setting a uniform European minimum wage, nor about obliging countries to introduce a statutory minimum wage. National traditions of collective bargaining will be respected.

Honourable members, putting economic, environmental and social sustainability at the heart of policy requires a change of the mindset. We have taken an important step towards achieving this today.

Thank you!

Closing remarks by Executive Vice-President Timmermans:

Many thanks Mr President.

Very briefly, if we do not limit the increase in temperature to 1.5°C, we are no longer masters of our own destiny. Things will get out of control, we reach tipping points and the effects for humanity will be disastrous.

If we do not shape the fourth industrial revolution that is happening right now with incredible speed, others will shape it for us and I believe that some will be winners but many will lose out.

So that's the writing that we see on the wall. If you see a writing on the wall you can act in three ways: you can just ignore it and continue as is, as some seem to advocate here; you can be afraid and hide under the bed, which I would not advocate; or you can start acting and this is what the European Commission does with the Green Deal, this is what we do with the Just Transition Fund.

Those that say it is not enough, you are right, it isn't! More efforts will be necessary but it is a first step in the right direction and any journey starts with a first step. We will start discussing the elements with you in the next months and years, so that we get it right.

I want to explicitly thank President Buzek for having made this proposal. It's his idea and we worked on this and I will say this on the day and he will allow me to say this: I want to just recall that exactly one year ago a courageous man Pavol Adampwicz, my friend, was murdered and he stood for something I believe in which is freedom, openness and dialogue. I really would like to just mention his name here today because he deserves it and we should never forget him.

Let me end on one thing, yes it was said, I am a grandson of coal miners, that's right. But I also know: the writing is on the wall is for coal, there is no future in coal! And if you want to ignore that reality, you can continue subsidising mines for years and years to come at great expense.

But how are you then going to explain to people who suffer from bad air quality, how are you going to explain that more than 400.000 people in Europe die prematurely because of bad air quality, and you do nothing. Do you really believe that our children and grandchildren are looking forward to a job in a coal mine?

I think they are looking forward to other jobs. And the Just Transition Fund should help to bring about those jobs in those regions that in the future will no longer be coal regions. This is the very idea of what we are doing. And ignoring the writing on the wall as you do is not an option, nor will the British Government do that; and I am absolutely sure in the future, the European Union and the British Government will be working hand in hand to make the green deal happen.

Closing remarks by Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis:

Chair, Honorable Members,

First of all, I would like to thank you for this lively and inspiring debate, I think it shows that we share the same goal, the same sense of urgency and the same aspiration for the economic transformations we are facing to be just and inclusive.

Our target is set. Now we need to work together towards a green and socially sustainable European economy.

But, we cannot do this alone. We can steer the policy, but we need to bring European citizens and businesses along with us.

We have the funding to move forward, we have the enabling rules to guide us through this transition, and we have the technical assistance to ensure that there is a strong pipeline of sustainable projects.

To come back to some of the questions which were raised during today's debate on the overall impact of this green transition on the European economy, and whether the Sustainable Investment Plan and the Just Transition Mechanism are enough to deal with this.

First of all, I would like to emphasise that there are actually studies showing moderately positive impact on the economy for the transition to the carbon neutral economy.

Yes, there will be jobs which will disappear, like the ones in coal industry, but green economy will create many new jobs.

So our task is to take this opportunity, but at the same time support people and regions most affected. That is why we have the Just Transition Mechanism and the Just Transition Fund.

And yes, that's exactly what the Commission proposed, this was also a question which was raised a number of times; we proposed Just Transition Fund as fresh money, so € 7.5 billion on top of the current MFF proposal.

So, Mister President, honourable members, we believe we have everything we need to reach our goal. So, let's work together to make this a reality.

Thank you very much!