ETUC statement ahead of European Commission proposal for a European Climate Law and Climate Pact



Scientific recommendations from the IPCC are clear. If we want to keep global warming below 1,5 to 2°C and avoid irreversible and disastrous consequences for our societies, we need to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. We already see that the past five years have been the warmest in the modern record, and 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2000[1]. These increases in temperature are accompanied by extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, wildfires that are getting more intense and more frequent over time.

European citizens and workers have well understood what is at stake. The year 2019 has been marked by significant mobilizations in Europe asking governments and public authorities to take urgent and ambitious actions against climate change. In parallel, several countries experienced intense protests resulting from fiscal and social reforms perceived as unfair by part of their population. ETUC believes that these recent developments show the urgency and the need for ambitious and significant climate policies that should be inclusive and supportive for the most vulnerable regions, sectors and workers.

In this context, the European Commission will release its proposal for a European Climate Law on 4 March 2020, to enshrine the objective of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 in EU legislation. This legislative proposal will be accompanied by the launch of the Climate Pact initiative, which aims to bring together citizens, civil society, industry and European, national, regional and local authorities and institutions to fight against climate change.

ETUC key messages

Once available, ETUC and its affiliates will assess and discuss in detail the legislative proposal from the Commission. In the meantime, ahead of the publication, we would like to remind some of our key messages that we think are relevant for the discussions related to the future Climate Law:

First of all, ETUC supports the upward revision of the 2030 Greenhouse gas emission reduction target from - 40 to -55 % (compared to 1990 levels) as well as the longer-term objective of reaching net-zero GHG emissions by 2050[2]. Adopting these targets would be an important step for the EU to lead the climate diplomacy talks ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

We, however, insist on the fact that these percentages do not tell the whole story and a target does not make a policy. Without the appropriate financial and policy means to reach them, the revised targets will be meaningless. The discussion about targets, therefore, cannot be isolated from the discussion about investment and just transition. The European Trade Union movement will support adopting such binding targets only if they are accompanied by adequate financial and policy means to reach them. One does not send a man on the moon without means.

In that regard, the ETUC is especially concerned by the status of discussions on the future Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027. At a time where significant levels of investments are required to deal with multiple challenges, among which the just transition to a carbon-neutral economy, ETUC urges the EU Council to increase the EU budget to 1.3% of GNI. We call all Member States to take responsibilities in these negotiations, otherwise, we run the risk that the European Green Deal, at the moment source of hope and renewal for the European project, will not reach its targets and will turn into a cruel disillusion for EU citizens[3].

To complement this budget, ETUC also recommends developing a fair taxation system (e.g. by adopting a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, a Financial Transactions Tax, a digital tax or a tax on highest revenues and excessive wealth). The use of ETS revenues as well as a tax on non-recycled plastic packaging waste could also help to secure additional funding. Having these solidarity mechanisms should help to finance climate action while fairly redistributing the gains and costs of the transition[4].

In parallel to these considerations on targets and funding, it is important that the Climate Law dedicates sufficient consideration to the social dimension of the transition. ETUC asks that the future Climate Law specifically refers to the concept of just transition as defined by the International Labour Organization[5]. The Just Transition principle should be enshrined in EU legislation and should be guiding EU climate action to ensure that no one is left behind.

ETUC asks that the Climate Law and the Climate Pact promote and strengthen an inclusive governance process where social dialogue and trade unions have a key role. Workers are part of the solution, not of the problem. Trade unions are structured, have on the ground perspective, and democratically represent the people most affected. They are key in shaping the different measures so as to accommodate the needs of the workers and in identifying the key challenges to address. Besides, social dialogue is a crucial driver to redistribute the gains and costs of the transitions, making sure that workers and most vulnerable sectors of society do not bear the burden alone of financing the transition. For social dialogue to work effectively, strengthening workers’ participation and empowering trade unions to ensure their effective involvement is needed. Social dialogue and the role of trade unions should be explicitly mentioned in the Climate Law and climate pact.

ETUC requests the European Commission to enshrine in the Climate Law the obligation for Member States to tackle energy poverty. Energy poverty is already a reality for 10 % of EU citizens. From 2007 to 2018, electricity prices for households rose by around 25% according to Eurostat and ACER. It will be crucial that future EU policies address this problem and counterbalance any regressive distributional effects that climate measures may have on citizens. This dimension should be part of the European Climate Law.

Finally, while the absolute priority must remain GHG emission reductions, ETUC also believes that the need for adaptation to climate change measures should be mentioned in the European Climate Law. Heatwaves and other extreme events show that climate change consequences are here and irreversible. Trying to anticipate and adapt as much as possible to the changes ahead should also be a part of EU climate action and therefore formally mentioned in any law.

[1] Earth Observatory, NASA, 2018,

[2]ETUC position for an inclusive European Green Deal, 30 October 2019,

[3] ETUC position on the European Commission proposal for the budget 2021-2027, 26 June 2018,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all, 2015,