What is important in the transition?

MB – 06/2023

The Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Specialist Department at the Directorate-General for Internal Policies has carried out a study for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL). This is about whether and to what extent the policy framework at EU and national level is sufficiently equipped to deal with the socio-economic impacts related to climate change policy. In particular, the study aims to analyse the effectiveness of policy-making in addressing social inequalities in the context of climate policy and to identify gaps and areas for further action.

Key points of the study

The data collection and analysis is based on three research approaches:

  • climate policy and impact on inequality,
  • EU funds and instruments to address negative impacts and to ensure a just transition; and
  • the approaches of individual Member States; specifically, the policies in Austria, Greece, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Spain were considered in case studies.

What results were found?

The study concludes that the social impacts of climate protection measures at EU or Member State level have so far not been examined systematically enough and that some aspects are hardly taken into account (e.g. ethnicity, race).

The EU and its various funds (e.g. ERDF, ESF+) have, in principle, comprehensive capabilities that can cover all socio-economic impacts of climate policy and resulting inequality dimensions. As a result, there is no need for new policy instruments, but to improve the understanding of the emerging socio-economic inequalities through climate change policy and to use the existing instruments and means to address these impacts accordingly.

Dimensions of inequality are not sufficiently recognised

Climate change adaptation measures can have a positive impact on people's overall quality of life as clean air and water have a nutritional value for all, for instance. Climate policies can have a negative impact when it comes to affordable access to services or housing. Low-income people, older people, people with disabilities, women and ethnic minorities have to use more of their disposable income for climate-related adaptation, and this puts these groups of people at higher risk of displacement. So far, there is a lack of corresponding data, which is also related to the fact that the problem is only recognised and acknowledged to a limited extent in some cases.

Approaches of the study

In order to be able to better analyse the effects of climate change and climate policy, there is a need for appropriate research that also includes the aforementioned aspects, in particular. This is likely to be parallel to raising awareness and understanding of the issue. When talking about buzzwords such as energy or traffic poverty, this should be done on the basis of uniform definitions at EU level, which can then also be used to collect reliable data in the Member States according to uniform standards.

The positive effect of such definitions would also be that the existing instruments – i.e. the various support funds – could focus more specifically on certain vulnerable groups, which could be analysed through the common definitions and better data collection.