What to make of the EU Climate Advisory Board’s first report?

Roland Kulke – Responsible of the Economic Advisory Board of the European Left Party

The EU has had an independent climate council since 2021 (EU’s Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change). On 18 January 2024, it published its first report examining whether the EU is on track to achieve its self-imposed target of net-zero CO2 production by the middle of the century.

Even if the Advisory Board sees positive developments, the report as a whole is a harsh criticism of the actual climate policy of the EU and its member states. Contrary to its self-perception, the EU is not leading the way in the global fight to meet the Paris 1.5-degree target.

The Advisory Board is so concerned about the poor implementation of EU laws by the Member States that it is even considering recommending that the EU Commission take legal action against Member States before the ECJ.

The status of the implementation of climate protection measures was analysed on the basis of 81 indicators. The three areas of buildings, transport and agriculture and forestry in particular need to make much greater efforts to reduce CO2 production.

The centrepiece of EU climate policy is the Green Deal, which is essentially implemented in the “Fit for 55” legislative package. This stipulates that the EU aims to reduce its CO2 production by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. A report published by the EU Commission in December 2023 admits that we will miss even this already too low target by achieving a reduction of CO2 emission of only 51% at the moment – unless we achieve savings that are significantly twice as high as before. The Left Group in the EP had rightly demanded savings of 65%. The 51% expected at the moment therefore represents a blatant failure on the part of the EU.

What would, according to the Advisory Board, be necessary, for example, is to double the expansion of wind energy compared to what is happening at the moment. While demands such as these could be achieved through traditional economic policies, the Advisory Board’s report contains much more far-reaching demands that show that it is not possible to continue in the current profit-orientated system.

Commission President Von der Leyen expects two reports to be available in the first half of 2024: one on deepening the single market and a second on increasing competitiveness. In other words, the Commission is aiming to further deepen market relations in the EU in exactly the same way as it wants to promote the further appropriation of profits by private companies.

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats opened the door to the return of the wrong austerity policy by agreeing to the EP compromise on the “reform” of the Stability and Growth Pact on 11 December 2023. And in June 2023, the Conservatives coordinated their work with the right-wing radicals in the EP for the first time to block environmental protection policy in the EP, this time in vain.

We are therefore already seeing before the coming EP-elections in June 2024 a shift away from climate protection policy and a return to destructive economic policy in the current EU.

It is therefore difficult to imagine how the Advisory Board’s demands could be implemented in the current EU system. This is because the main demands include: increasing taxes on energy, reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and severely restricting the production and sale of meat and dairy products, thus hurting the farmers and consumers with massive increase in prices.

In Germany, we are currently seeing the failure of such a policy: energy prices for housing and petrol are being increased by January 2024, the promised “climate money”, which is supposed to pay back the revenue generated to the citizens, is not coming, and at the same time investments in rail and buses are being prevented by budget cutbacks – and at the same time the radical right-wing AfD is rising in polls.

This last example shows that the market-based strategies of most national governments and the current Commission are not working.

What we need instead is a completely different agricultural policy that supports regional production and stops concluding more and more free trade agreements. The most important thing for the future of a sustainable climate policy, however, is above all to get the EU’s finances in order. If the working people in the regions are driven into the hands of right-wing extremists through permanent cutbacks, that will be the end of a sustainable climate and environmental policy. We therefore need a socialist economic policy that makes a good life possible for the working classes in the EU. Only on this foundation can the necessary environmental and climate-protecting changes be made to our economic system.