The energy transition is a unique opportunity for the public sector and companies. These coming years will be crucial in order for the EU to deploy innovative solutions to reduce carbon emissions. Moreover, the challenge of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is contributing to the energy transition, significantly speeding up its progress.
Covid-19 has been a game-changer globally for everyone and brought in a time of important decisions concerning the green transition, such as the launch of the Just Transition Platform within the Just Transition Fund and the forthcoming European Green Deal call. The energy transition is a unique opportunity to make use of Europe’s economic growth and is now the only way for Europe to keep growing its innovation and competitiveness. The year 2050 is now the deadline for Europe to become climate neutral, cutting carbon emissions by at least 50%. With the unforeseen occurrence of Covid-19 and the global changes it brought with it, however, this transition must redefine its holistic approach.
Clara de la Torre, Joint Director of DG CLIMA has stated that the recovery will be green and sustainable or otherwise there will be no recovery at all. The recovery demands an inclusive transition that leaves no one behind, as stated in the Coal Regions in Transition Virtual Week. The implementation of green and renewable solutions not only benefits regional actors, but also citizens and workers, those most affected by the pandemic. The technical potential of the green solutions has been tested in the regions in transition, and it shows huge potential to be employed. This is one of the reasons why the transition is advancing at a faster pace due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, digitalisation is of utmost importance for the transition. From an employment perspective, it has been observed that those jobs and companies able to adapt themselves to remote working have undergone a lower dismissal rate. Those companies flexible with regard to virtual and in-person ways of working and able to mobilise resources to adapt to the effects of the pandemic have been the ones able to continue as usual with their workload. This is a crucial finding for encouraging digitalisation in other aspects, even if a green transition also requires labour intensive jobs, many managerial roles and processes have been shown to be adaptable to new requirements.
It is necessary to consider the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) when finding responses to the pandemic, since the urgency in responding might lead to the compromise of sustainability. ZABALA, an innovation consultancy, organised a series of webinars in May on the future after the Covid-19 pandemic, where discussion focused on which of the SDGs are the most strategic for overcoming the pandemic sustainably. Those SDGs which may allow more sustainability and resilience are as follows:
This objective is self-explanatory, especially during a pandemic. The well-being of citizens and workers must always be a priority and responsible planning for employees is to be undertaken on a running basis. There are two main premises: digitalise what can be digitalised, including implementing smart working whenever possible, as well as undertaking security measures for workers. These premises are of extreme importance for a green transition, since the jobs created will be labour intensive and will try to bring in workers from sectors in decline, who often suffer from a lack of opportunities and employee mistreatment. Digitalisation in medicine has been proved to be a basic need, and the pandemic has helped to highlight how much still needs to be done in order to really offer a good digital care service. Scientific evidence, ethics, and equality of patient care are the top priorities when digitalising health. The pandemic has also demonstrated that good health is not only physical, but also mental and contextual and requires a high level of adaptability from us. Open, interdisciplinary, and collaborative science will help attain this objective, better tackle the challenges of the pandemic, and achieve a transition with equal opportunities for all.
During the ongoing pandemic, many workers have lost their jobs due to its economic knock-on effects. The transition needs to be diverse and inclusive to really overcome this, respecting not only the environment but also citizens. This is the premise of the Just Transition Mechanism: not leaving anyone behind but stressing the immediate and urgent support of those regions and sectors that need it the most.
Some fragile opportunities have accompanied the pandemic from the perspective of the SDGs. It has spurred major change in transportation and people’s ways of working and socialising, as well as emissions levels, which saw a temporary decrease during periods of lockdown. This is an opportunity to redefine measures and to undertake new and more ambitious ones that will make a difference in recovering from the pandemic following the objectives stated by the Paris Climate Agreement. Home confinement has also brought about new dynamics in the use of buildings, since many have been less frequented, like offices, while more energy has been required for other buildings such as houses for their cooling or heating. This is to be taken into consideration in the green transition.
Strategic partnerships are utterly necessary to overcome this crisis, and once again they need to be inclusive and diverse to collectively find solutions fitting for all and better for the environment and the citizenship. Moreover, partnerships and collective support should be open to everyone: not only for finding a solution, but for sharing it with others so it to be transferable and others can benefit from it. This will also lead to partnerships being socially conscious and not simply seeking profits that only a few can enjoy. Partnerships which consider broader societal benefits and join forces with more actors might lead to a slower process, but in the end the project will have more robust foundations and will be more sustainable.
All of these SDGs find common ground in the green transition and also show how interconnected it is with the current pandemic.
EURADA, in turn, recognises the benefits and importance of the green transition for Europe and is collaborating with actors from all across Europe in the project ENTRANCES. This project does not seek to provide solutions to the problems caused by the pandemic, nor to achieve the SDGs, but it plays a very important role in the green transition.
ENTRANCES is focused on the social aspects of decarbonisation, amongst them de-territorialisation; the feeling of having lost one’s identity and attachment to the territory one comes from due to a substantial change. This challenge emerges in the green transition, and the project will not try to give solutions to it but to study and analyse it and its causes with the aim of finding out how to act better in future.
With a collective and holistic approach, the green transition can help overcome the pandemic-induced crisis. On the other hand, what has been experienced and seen these months can help better enable the green transition to find and achieve common goals.
To check the ENTRANCES’ project website, please follow this link here.
You can also read our previous article on the project here.
ZABALA’s articles in Spanish on the Green Transition and the SDGs to tackle the crisis on the Covid-19 pandemic.
ZABALA’s recording on the series of webinars on the SDGs to tackle the crisis on the Covid-19 pandemic in Spanish:
Here you will find information from the UN on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Written by Roser TORRES, Project Officer at EURADA