Social investment cannot be left behind in the Just Transition Fund 

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As policymakers, our task is to ensure that no one will be left behind in the energy transition and that the effort of transition will be fairly shared, writes Mounir Satouri.

Mounir Satouri is a French Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/EFA group. He is the rapporteur for the Parliament’s employment committee opinion on the Just Transition Fund.

This is what the Commission set out when it launched its proposal for the Just Transition Fund in January 2020.

Now, almost 10 months on, the inter-institutional trilogue negotiations must strive for a fund that works to tackle the climate crisis while supporting regions, communities, and individuals to adapt to, and prosper in the green economy.

Together with my fellow EMPL committee members in the Greens/EFA group, Kira Peter-Hansen and Katrin Langensiepen, I have co-signed a letter to the German Council Presidency outlining three core social measures to be upheld within the trilogue negotiations on the Just Transition Fund.

Despite the limited overall size of the Just Transition Fund, we believe equal support must be given to green economic investment as to investment in social infrastructure and the needs of individuals in transition regions.

Support for human capital such as up- and re-skilling schemes for workers and the unemployed are part and parcel of a truly just transition for workers and regions. They must be key priorities within the fund.

Investment must include vulnerable groups in measures for job seekers. 

Labour markets are inclusive when every one of working age can participate in paid work.

In regions that are already economically deprived, support, training, and re-skilling measures must be aimed at all people, including those seeking employment who are already marginalised.

Specific attention to vulnerable groups, such as the long-term unemployed, young people, disabled persons, or single parents, is paramount to ensure a fair transition.

Investment must go towards the creation or maintenance of social infrastructure within regions.

Social infrastructure plays a critical role in economic activity and social wellbeing. These are the assets necessary for the proper functioning of our societies. Beyond a job, this is what gives people reasons to stay in a community. When these services cease to exist, it causes lasting damage.

From schools and hospitals to transport networks, waste collection, nurseries, extracurricular, or sports activities for young people; each region should be able to request funding based on local needs and specificities.

Investment must also be made in the fight against energy poverty.

Around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings and housing has a huge impact on the environment.

Not only do families or persons living in poor quality housing suffer from health-related issues to do with overheating or cooling, but energy poverty also increases income inequality. The Just Transition Fund can play a role in increasing social justice and improving the energy efficiency of homes.

The jobs associated with thermal renovation provide the opportunity to develop “green engineering” in the construction industry. Furthermore, by their very nature, the jobs created cannot be moved offshore and largely target segments of the population most affected by high levels of unemployment.

A green and social transition

Our group, as reflected in its vote in the EP plenary in September, will continue to push for a Just Transition Fund based entirely on clean and renewable energy sources and urges the Council and Commission to uphold this climate-friendly approach in-line with the European Climate Law in the ongoing trilogues, setting a yardstick for the European Parliament to follow.

In the midst of a climate emergency and the COVID-19 recovery, the EU must look to address the needs of both people and the planet in the transition. A just transition cannot remain a mere buzzword. For many, the current health crisis has made both social inequalities and the need to rethink our economic models clearer than ever.

The yellow vest protests against the rise of fuel prices in France have shown that the ecological transition cannot happen without citizens’ buy-in and engagement. In Germany, a European country that has pioneered the energy transition, many young citizens have been calling for socially fair climate and environmental protection measures.

The Just Transition Fund can and must be part of the solution. As Greens, we reiterate our calls for a green and socially just energy transition.

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