Is ‘Fit for 55’ fair for all? 

The summer holidays are upon us, and this moment couldn’t come soon enough for those of us experiencing Belgium’s wettest summer in 40 years. The deadly floods that swept through areas of the country and neighbouring Germany in July are a tragic reminder of the human misery and suffering caused by climate change. The European Commission has put forward its ‘Fit for 55’ package, with the aim to “make the EU’s climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.” The urgency of this package is undeniable. We are glad to see the Commission recognise the social impact of the green transition and climate change. How can we make sure that we get a just, green transition and that the cost doesn’t plunge people on low income into poverty? 

The social risks of the transition are a concern for our members. Housing Europe warns that “low-income households and therefore residents of social housing will end up paying more for their energy without having the possibility to switch to a cleaner source of heating or transport fuel.” The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) explains that “the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), which puts a price on carbon and lowers the cap on emissions from certain economic sectors every year […] could disproportionately affect lower-income people and lead to a social backlash.” 

The Commission goes some way to address these concerns with the creation of the Social Climate Fund, with around €72.2 billion for seven years, to mitigate the costs for people in vulnerable situations and micro-businesses, who will bear the brunt of fossil fuel price hikes. The fund’s intention is good, but it is in the hands of Member States to determine exactly where the money is spent, and we want to see national governments and public authorities consulting with civil society organisations and social service providers to see how best to put this fund to good use. 

A positive of the Fit for 55 package is the job creation potential, with 1 million additional green jobs by 2030 and 2 million by 2050. The Commission should explore how to engage social enterprises. Social enterprises and the social economy contribute to the social and professional inclusion of people in vulnerable situations and provide social and green services for the benefit of the community. In other words, social enterprises, while selling products and services on the market, are committed to producing exactly the kind of positive social and green impact that Fit for 55 promotes. 

The Council Conclusions that will be adopted on the social implications of the green transition will be an important indication of how far Member States are willing to go. Fit for 55 has the potential to make a real, lasting positive impact on our climate, but there must be agreement that social rights will not be forfeited to pay the price.  

Best wishes,

Alva Finn, Director of Social Platform