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Green, digital and social recovery – How the recovery plans are supporting a wellbeing economy for people and planet?
Event report available
Europe is facing many challenges as a result of the pandemic of COVID-19. Crisis management and recovery is in the focus of the activities of the European Institutions and the Member States in 2021. The three Observatories of the European Economic and Social Committee were following the negotiations of the new multiannual financial framework for 2021-27 and the Next Generation EU. It is crucial to ensure that recovery funding is sustainable as well as inclusive, and that it entails a ‘bounce forward’ for progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and promotion of wellbeing-related goals, rather than a return to business as usual. The main purpose of this event is to present and discuss about the involvement of civil society in the implementation of the recovery plans, trough concrete examples. The Conference will focus on three economic sectors in transition to analyse the opportunities and challenges to shift towards a wellbeing economy, aligned with the SDG Agenda. The three panels on energy, the car industry and digitalisation will have a regional kick off presentation of the underlying main drivers, potentials and challenges and will be based on concrete national experience. Each panel will allow time for contributions from participants.
Event reportThis event focused on the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the recovery plans. It was shown that there is an increasing demand for a transformational shift in how we produce and consume. This should be reflected in the recovery plans. Civil society organisations have already made a fundamental contribution to dealing with the pandemic and they must now have a strategic role in implementing the national recovery plans. Different panels showed that this involvement is not sufficient and civil society should be involved in a structural way. The first panel on "Energy transition in the move towards a carbon neutral society: addressing the social and territorial dimension" addressed the main opportunities and challenges associated with transforming the current European energy system to achieve a fair, environmentally sustainable, competitive and climate-neutral society by 2050. It was showed that the process of phasing out coal is more challenging for some EU countries than others, for example Poland. Differentiated phasing out times might be necessary to facilitate region-tailored transitions. In Spain, important tripartite agreements between the government, trade unions and employers have been reached in the last two years to phase out coal and ensure a just and peaceful transition in the regions. These energy transition agreements require tailored investments for the regions affected, social security schemes to support the workers affected, skilling programmes, the right incentives, the involvement of social agents and the participation of community actors. It is also imperative to set up a just transition mechanism for the sector, to ensure a socially responsible transition. The second panel on "The transformation of the car industry towards the decarbonisation of the economy: challenges and opportunities for the labour market" focused on the impact of the green transition on the labour market, specifically in the automobile industry. The panellists discussed the EU mobility strategy and the importance of having a just transition that is socially acceptable. The presentations included a discussion on the massive transition in employment and the need to have a collective transition which will help employees to reskill for promising job sectors. Employee representation on management boards is a very good way of including environmental and social aspects in the green transition. When it comes to state aid, this should be attached to environmental and social conditions. For Europe, it is also important to manufacture cars in Europe, in order to have a more locally based supply chain. Financial incentives should be envisaged for scrapping old cars and, in countries with low GDP, potentially also for buying used vehicles with lower emissions. The third panel "Contribution of the digital transition to the well-being economy" focused on the role of digitalisation in national recovery plans. It was made clear that investment in connectivity is the priority and a well-functioning internet connexion should be guaranteed everywhere. Training workers is crucial in this context to ensure they understand how to use new technologies. It can also reduce the gap between qualified and less qualified jobs. However, it is very difficult to find qualified workers. Estonia is very advanced in e-government, and the quality of its national databases and the security of its connections are two key elements of its success. On the other hand, as some examples from Czechia showed, more money from the funds should be allocated to the direct digitalisation of companies.
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