EU climate change package: consider social and labour issues

The European Commission today adopted a package of proposals aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in the European Union by 2020. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) considers this package to be a major step, but it stresses that social and employment issues must be taken into account, particularly in a globalised context.

Given the tremendous economic and social stakes and the growing tendency to bring climate policy into the Community sphere, there is a need to launch real social negotiations on Europe’s future climate plans.
The ETUC supports the Commission’s proposals because they tackle greenhouse gas emissions in a greater number of sectors. They provide a credible framework for the development of renewable energy sources. They aim to put in place a more effective emissions trading scheme, particularly by setting an EU-wide emissions ceiling. The ETUC supports a combination of free allocation according to benchmarking principles – based on best available technologies – and selling of allowances by auction or on the CO2 market, provided that determination of the share of each mode takes account of the impact on European workers. Such an allocation scheme must be harmonised across Europe in order to avoid distortions of competition and social conditions.

The Commission is considering the possibility of establishing a border adjustment mechanism. As ETUC General Secretary John Monks stated at a press conference on 15 January, there is a way of keeping employment and the planet from being the losers: a compensation mechanism such as a carbon tax on imports, which would equalise carbon costs for all companies, whether they are based in Europe or outside its borders. Under such a system, a considerable effort could be demanded of European industry while keeping heavy industry and jobs in Europe.

The Commission’s postponement of that decision is a mistake, since it has acknowledged the dangers of relocation and ‘carbon leakage’ to countries that refuse to make binding commitments to reduce their emissions. The ETUC therefore considers that a border protection mechanism is essential, irrespective of the permit allocation method.

Furthermore, the ETUC regrets the absence of social criteria for the production of biofuels. It is concerned that the binding objective of a 10% share of biofuels in the transport sector may have a negative social impact on the workers and populations of producer countries, and in particular the developing countries.

Lastly, for the ETUC, energy efficiency must not be the poor relation of the European Union’s climate plan. “Energy efficiency is announced as a priority but no binding objective is set. There is nevertheless tremendous potential for low-cost reductions of emissions through efforts to limit consumption and to improve energy efficiency. Such measures create jobs and are attractive because they help shrink the household energy bill,” observed John Monks, referring to the ETUC study on climate change and employment. Europe must not only strengthen its energy security but also guarantee the evolution of energy prices.

Europe’s trade unions would like to see a mechanism making it possible to anticipate, give warning of and support, as necessary, the economic or social transformations that may result from the introduction of climate change policies. The Commission must make provision for setting up such a system, explained John Monks.

The ETUC also recommends that the Globalisation Adjustment Fund be enlarged so as to limit the negative consequences for workers of measures to combat climate change.

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1 Response to “EU climate change package: consider social and labour issues”


  1. 1 RoseNP January 25, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Barroso and the EU now seem to be willing to really tackle climate change. But the package will allow European industry to keep on polluting…
    have a look at what Oscar Reyes writes on The Guardian:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2245766,00.html


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