The European Union is determined to lead the way to accelerate climate and environmental action on all fronts. In December 2019, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal 1 – our plan for transforming the EU into a fair, healthy, sustainable and prosperous society. A resilient economy that works for people and for nature. Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Economic growth decoupled from resource use and pollution. Five years after the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 2 we have not moved fast enough to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate change. Science tells us we have to act urgently to stand a chance of achieving the Paris climate goals, notably to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit such warming to 1.5°C. For this, we have to speed up our efforts to repair the way we interact with nature, protect people’s health and well-being from climate and environment-related risks, and guarantee a healthy and thriving planet for us and those who come after us.
The European Green Deal is a response not only to science, but also to demands for stronger action coming from citizens. Public opinion surveys show that nine out of ten Europeans see climate change as a serious problem3 and feel that protecting the environment is personally important for them.4 The many solutions outlined in the Green Deal can only succeed if designed in a socially just and fair way and if citizens, communities, companies and organisations play their part, alongside government policies and regulation. This is why the European Commission is launching a European Climate Pact, to make sure that everyone can help build a greener Europe and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Proposed in the Political Guidelines of the President of the European Commission, the Climate Pact will bring together “regions, local communities, civil society, industry and schools. Together they will design and commit to a set of pledges to bring about a change in behaviour, from the individual to the largest multinational.”5 The Climate Pact will provide a space for working together to tackle climate change and environmental degradation and to grasp the opportunities that come with decisive action and sustainable lifestyles. The Pact will connect people from all walks of life to improve their understanding of the challenges, to invite all Europeans to participate and benefit, to develop solutions big and small and to trigger and scale up positive change. The European Climate Pact will keep on growing and evolving over time, spurred by the engagement and creativity of all the citizens and stakeholders that will become part of it.
The Pact will empower the many in Europe who share these aspirations and are ready to contribute and reach out to those who have been less involved so far. During the public consultation held to help shape the Pact, the Commission received more than 3,500 contributions, many from citizens in all 27 EU Member States and beyond.6 The Commission will continue to listen to citizens, communities, civil society, companies and other stakeholders. 1.1. Why a European Climate Pact? The climate crisis is not a future problem – we, humans, have already changed the Earth’s climate and degraded the majority of its ecosystems. The past five years have been the warmest on record. The impacts of climate change are now beyond dispute: droughts, forest fires, storms, floods and other extreme weather events are on the rise globally. It has had a major impact on demographic trends. The change will be more radical, with unpredictable consequences if we fail to reduce urgently our ecological footprint and emissions. Its effects will fundamentally transform our world, hitting the most vulnerable groups in the world and in our societies first.7 The EU institutions have an important role to play in shaping policy and legislation to implement the European Green Deal. The Commission also recently proposed a higher ambition for emissions reduction for the next decade, 8 and presented its approach to sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals.9 We are not starting from scratch. The Climate Pact will work alongside numerous existing initiatives, networks and movements. Young climate activists have captured the world’s attention and shaped the discussion on climate change. Under the EU Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, 10 local governments are leading the way at municipal level, often showing more ambition and tangible action than their national governments in engaging citizens and stakeholders in their territories. The European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform11 and Multi-stakeholder platform on Sustainable Development Goals 12 brought stakeholders together to inspire change in the way we produce and consume. Industrial alliances and other business-related initiatives have also helped define the needs and appropriate solutions for industry when engaging in the green transition.
What is the Climate Pact? The European Climate Pact is a Commission initiative to engage with different stakeholders and civil society with the aim to commit them to climate action and more sustainable behaviour. It will offer ways for people and organisations to learn about climate change, to develop and implement solutions, and to connect with others to multiply the impact of those solutions. The Pact will create a lively space to share information, debate and act on the climate crisis. It will offer support for a European climate movement to grow and consolidate.
The European Climate Pact will focus on spreading awareness and supporting action. At its launch, the Pact will invite people and organisations to learn and to commit to specific actions by becoming Climate Pact Ambassadors. During the first year, the Pact will expand its activities to provide also the opportunity to launch and join climate action pledges, exchange experiences, and explore the aggregated impact of joint actions. As the Climate Pact will be an open initiative, it will offer varied opportunities for engagement, tailored to the needs of its supporters. Under the lead of the European Commission, a dedicated Secretariat will support the implementation of the Pact. Lead by principles of multilingualism, inclusiveness and participation, starting in 2021, the Secretariat will help the Commission in:
informing and communicating with those already active in climate action as well as those ‘indifferent’ or ‘hard to reach’, identifying and displaying good practices that can help accelerate the necessary changes, and managing the Pact’s online platform, which will evolve as the Pact grows;
engaging with citizens and stakeholders and facilitating meaningful participation, networking and co-creation of actions, e.g. by capturing local climate narratives, stories and ‘can do’ attitudes and (co-)organising various types of participatory events. A Pact’s Knowledge Hub will support climate initiatives with expert knowledge and peer-to-peer support;
supporting the setting up of Pact’s governance and implementation, ensuring links with relevant initiatives, groups and institutions,17 appraising and invigorating the initiative. The success of the Pact could be measured with number of pledges or ambassadors. More importantly, its success will be reflected through the level of acceptance or demands for climate and environmental initiatives across the society.