Our understanding of climate change challenges and necessary responses has significantly evolved due to scientific progress. However, there remains a substantial gap between the actual pace of change and what is required. The first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement (GST) took place during the UN Climate Change Conference COP 28 in Dubai. After extensive technical work and three technical dialogues, it was scientifically confirmed that climate action has not yet achieved the transformative change needed to address worsening climate conditions and risks. As a result, Parties have committed to realigning national targets and actions with the Paris Agreement. By COP 30 in Brazil (2025), countries should submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) consistent with the best available science and Global Stocktake results.

The EU’s 2040 climate target reinforces its commitment to achieving climate neutrality

As part of the Green Deal, the EU Climate Law (2021) mandates the European Commission to propose an interim climate target for 2040 within six months of the first Global Stocktake. Based on the impact assessments and  the Report of  the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change (ESABCC), the Commission recommends a 90% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 compared to 1990 levels ( EU, 2040 emission reduction target). This forward-looking approach aligns with the EU’s strategic decision for climate neutrality by 2050, providing a predictable investment framework for industry, investors, citizens, and governments. This commitment also impacts the EU’s 2025 nationally determined contribution, urging greater global climate action and ambitious targets to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C in line with the Paris Agreement. The challenge is significant, especially considering the planet’s record high temperatures in 2023, which are already approaching critical limits.

The social dimension is crucial for the political feasibility of the climate transition

The European Commission’s communication serves  as a recommendation, while the proposal for a legal act establishing a 2040 target awaits the next European Commission, which will emerge after the June elections. The crucial focus lies not only on the legally binding 2040 climate target but also on presenting a comprehensive package of policies to accelerate a just transition across all sectors within the EU. The Commission advocates for open dialogue as a method to structure discussions with stakeholders. This approach applies to the Strategic Dialogue on Industry and Agriculture, with the first progress report anticipated in April 2024. However, further clarification is needed regarding the scope and organization of this open dialogue.

The European Commission’s impact assessment emphasizes two critical conditions for achieving climate objectives across all sectors:

  1. Ensuring Sustainable Competitiveness is crucial for the European economy’s long-term success.
  2. Supporting Just Transition Reforms: the focus here is on implementing reforms that facilitate a fair transition to a climate-neutral economy.

To achieve these goals, countries are urged to establish robust institutional frameworks. These frameworks will enable effective coordination, assessment of policy areas, and consensus-building. Notably, France (through its France Strategy), the Netherlands (via the Scientific Council for Government Policy), and Belgium (with its Justtransition initiative) have already taken institutional steps toward achieving a just transition to address climate change. Belgium, guided by the scientific report “The Just Transition in Belgium: Concepts, Issues at Stake, and Policy Levers” (2023), has recently introduced a political memorandum of understanding titled “Towards a Just Transition in Belgium Policy Memorandum” (2023). In this report, a just transition is defined as a shift toward sustainability, guided by principles of social-ecological justice. It places social and participatory rights at the core of environmental policy. As we look ahead, national efforts toward this social-ecological transition, along with the allocation of responsibilities between European institutions and Member States, will be pivotal topics in the upcoming European political cycle.

The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU (from  1 January  to 30 June 2024) has initiated steps toward establishing an EU policy framework for the just transition. They submitted a request for an opinion to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

The exploratory opinion suggests several key actions:

  1. Introduce a social dimension to climate observatories and create an EU Just Transition Observatory,
  2. Appoint an Executive Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the European Green Deal as the Commissioner for Just Transition. Additionally, appoint a Permanent Rapporteur for Just Transition in the European Parliament. Strengthen the environmental and social dimension of the European Semester,
  3. Revise all climate regulatory frameworks to integrate just transition considerations into climate and energy planning, policy processes, and other areas, including the Common Agricultural Policy.

Notably, just transition is a priority during the Belgian presidency, and the European Conference on a Just Transition is scheduled for 4 – 5 March, 2024, in Brussels.

The global community, including the EU, must actively embrace opportunities arising from international agreements and multilateral initiatives to facilitate a sustainable transition. Countries should revise their roadmaps, integrating recommendations from these agreements into their updated NDCs and long-term strategies (by 2025). This alignment will enhance sectoral transformations with a focus on social equity. As we move into 2024, international efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will intensify, presenting significant challenges at all levels – international, European, and national.

 

* Report & synopsis by

Elena Dima, Economist, MSc International Political Economy & European Social Policy

Sustainable Development Observatory, ENA

 

[Full study in Greek]