Targeted measures can cut carbon emissions and improve social equality

Recycling revenues from energy and carbon taxes to support low-income groups, investing in renovating buildings and in green mobility are among measures that could ensure public support for Europe’s sustainability agenda and a socially just transition.
Source: Gerd Altmann;

Vulnerable groups may feel the benefit of these measures more than others, as well as from the broader community impacts of improved air quality and reduced environmental noise.

This is one of the conclusions of the joint briefing ‘Exploring the social challenges of low-carbon energy policies in Europe’ by Eurofound and European Environment Agency (EEA), published today. The briefing looks at how to achieve win-win solutions for climate action and social justice, and in-turn build support for climate policies.

Costs and benefits of climate policies are distributed unevenly across the population and are likely to create winners and losers, the joint briefing points out. As such, ensuring a fair transition towards climate neutrality would benefit from policies that reduce both carbon emissions and social inequalities and that minimise the inequality of monetary impacts and maximise the co-benefits of climate action.

Cutting emissions and reducing social inequality could be achieved with targeted measures, such as improving energy efficiency of buildings or investing in public transport and opportunities for cycling and walking, the briefing shows.

Overall, effective and socially just climate action calls for coordinated efforts from different governance levels and policy areas, as well as involvement of multiple stakeholders. Further efforts are also needed to better document, measure and understand the social impacts of climate change mitigation policies.

‘This research shows that achieving climate neutrality and tackling social inequality can be done in a hand-in glove approach that seeks to deliver a double dividend for low-income and vulnerable groups. This joint work from Eurofound and EEA underscores the broad cooperation to ensure that Europe’s green transition is of maximum benefit to all citizens’, said Ivailo Kalfin, Eurofound Executive Director.

‘Achieving true and lasting sustainability will require addressing social inequalities in Europe and beyond. Our joint work with Eurofound shows that this is possible with targeted and effective climate action that cuts carbon emissions and improves people’s living environments’, said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.

The joint briefing is based on an EEA commissioned analysis ‘Social impacts of climate mitigation policies and outcomes in terms of inequality’, done by Ramboll, and the Eurofound report ‘Distributional impacts of climate policies in Europe’.

Download the briefing


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