The warming of the climate and the environmental change caused by it are the greatest threats for the European Union in the current day and the near future. If the warming is not stopped at the IPCC-recommended 1.5 degree raise, the Union and its nearby areas will face irrevocable natural changes that will result in social, political and economic instability for the member states of the EU. The European Union has pledged to act for the inhibition of climate change, but concrete planning is only under way. JEF Helsinki emphasises the need to implement all of the Union’s climate actions in a socially just manner, without placing the member countries’ citizens’ equal opportunity for wellbeing at risk. We propose actions and solutions on three emission-producing sectors of the Union: the energy sector, the transit sector and the agricultural sector.

The energy sector is the largest single source of climate emissions in the area of the European Union. Most of the sector’s emissions come from the production of fossil energy and from its use in industry and residential buildings. To decrease the emissions of energy production, the EU has created the 2030 Energy and Climate Framework as well as the Commission’s 2050 Strategy, which are set to increase the broader deployment of renewable forms of energy production and the energy efficiency of both industry and housing, should they come to fruition.  The goal of raising the share of renewable energy to 80% of all production presented in the strategy must be fulfilled and implemented in a socially just way. In the Union’s energy economically stable areas, a fast utilisation of renewable energy must be guaranteed and focus needs to be shifted on improving energy efficiency on all sectors of the society. Special attention must however be paid to the energy poor and fossil fuel dependent regions of the Union that are currently the home to 10-20% of the Union’s population. These regions must be financially supported in the transition towards a low emission energy sector, and thus JEF Helsinki calls for funding to be allocated specifically for the development of the renewable energy infrastructure in these regions as well as for improving the energy efficiency of their residential buildings.

The emissions of the transit sector form a third of the European Union’s total emissions. Its emissions have a great decrease potential, however, because most of the sector’s emissions come from road traffic that can be affected through straightforward and socially just means. JEF Helsinki calls for the European Union to fulfill its goals of decreasing the emissions of road traffic and strives toward a carbon neutral traffic by year 2050. This must be accomplished by electrifying road traffic, for the purpose of which a standardised Union-wide electric infrastructure and a power distribution system that makes electric cars equally viable to everyone must be created. Additionally, the European Union must guide regional and city planning so that funding is only granted for low carbon projects, and so that the main mode of transport in cities shifts from private cars to public transport. The role of railway transport must be increased and the condition and reach of railway networks must be improved and maintained, and carless areas must be increased with parking spaces built near nodes of public transport. Short term decreases in emissions must be sought by regressive increases in the taxation of fuels, simultaneously compensating for the economic pressure brought to the small income households by adjusting other taxation.

The agricultural sector produces the most emissions in the area of the European Union after the energy and transit sectors. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, it burdens natural environments by harmful nitrogen and phosphorous emissions and weakens the condition of currently arable land. JEF Helsinki underlines, that the European Union needs to act as the leading party in decreasing the emissions of the agricultural sector in the future, and needs to set outlines for its member states to implement the required changes in socially just ways and without risking the food security of the Union. The decreases must be achieved by tying the Union’s agricultural subsidies to the goals for decreasing emissions, by delineating the conditions for subsidies to encourage transition away from high emission forms of production and into low emission production. The carbon capture capacity of agricultural land must be increased and agricultural subsidies must support the growing of plants increasing this capacity. Chemical fertilisation that degrades arable soil and harms the surrounding environment must be decreased, and the transition towards the use of plants increasing biological nutrient capturing must be financially assisted. The conditions for agricultural subsidies must also include incentives for small farms to share work and to farm crops together, as the emissions of the sector can be effectively decreased by making load sharing between small businesses more efficient. It is in these ways that we can efficiently steer the big and small actors of the agricultural sector towards a lower emission production without risking their livelihoods.

Striving towards the climate goals is reasonable also from the point of view of the job market, as the climate actions of different sectors also create potential for economic development and enable the utilisation of life-long learning in industries under vast changes. By focusing on improving energy efficiency by renovating buildings in the Union, an estimated 2 million new jobs can be created, leading to a 0.7% raise in the GDP in the area of the Union. Additionally, the creation of a new energy infrastructure creates new jobs in the renewable energy sector. In the transit sector, electrifying road traffic creates ground for better applications of platform and sharing economies and for businesses utilising them, which brings jobs to the sector. The European Union must support this development by creating common standards for the actors of the sector and to subsequently develop the regulation of the internal market on pertinent parts. In the agricultural sector, supporting the cooperation between small farms and supporting the growth of plants that increase the diversity of current monoculture farming will improve efficiency and create demand for additional labour.

Socially just prevention of climate change must be one of the central themes of the next institutional cycles of the European Union. Making sure it is fulfilled is an important part of the core principles of the Union, and it comes as an answer to the Union’s cohesion and security threats and strengthens the Union’s economy. For these reasons, JEF Helsinki calls for the Finnish MEPs and Commissar to take action in order to advance the climate actions of different sectors in aforementioned ways.

JEF Helsinki

 

Further information:

 

Kia Karhunen
Chairperson
kia.karhunen[at]helsinki.fi

Vilppu Kaartinen
Vice-chairperson
vilppu.kaartinen[at]gmail.com

Matti Myllynen
Advocacy and Membership Growth
matti.myllynen[at]helsinki.fi