My vacuum cleaner died without previous notice on the day Italy entered its second lockdown. I tried to open it to see if I could still do something to revive it. I was quickly disillusioned by the few repair shops that had remained open: I bought it too many years ago, in a different country. I looked online and found cheap and brand-new models, that could be delivered to my doorstep the day after. I ended up buying a new vacuum cleaner, although I would have preferred to repair my old one. …


As winter approaches and Europe enters a second wave of COVID-19, the European Commission prioritises issues related to housing quality and domestic well-being. Last week, Commissioners Simson and VP Timmermans, therefore, presented two keystones of Europe’s Recovery Plan: the Renovation Wave and the Recommendation for Member States on how to address energy poverty.

Acknowledging the prevalence and complexity of Energy Poverty

First of all, through its Recommendation on energy poverty and the Communication on the Renovation Wave, the Commission acknowledges the prevalence of the phenomenon and the complexity of measuring it. Energy poverty comes from low incomes, high costs and energy inefficiency in general, “in combination with a broad range of socioeconomic factors associated with general poverty and issues arising from housing tenure systems” (Recommendation on energy poverty). …


The COVID-19 outbreak makes us face an unprecedented situation. Our consumption and social model needs to be reinvented. It seems that governments have decided not to add to the health crisis a social catastrophe that would leave too many people out in the cold. In this paper, I explore the first support measures set up for energy consumers in seven countries: Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

NB: This article does not pretend to be comprehensive: there are still too many uncertainties, in particular, about the duration of the confinement and future policy priorities. But if you are interested in a follow-up and a more complete study, please contact me. I would be delighted to conduct it. …


I mentioned it in February: the European Commission is not lacking in ambition in terms of sustainability. On 11 March 2020, the EC unveiled its plan for the circular economy. Let’s check it out.

What is the circular economy?

A circular economy happens “when everything is healthy food for something else” (Sustainability Illustrated). In a circular economy, we reuse indefinitely materials and products that are already available. Instead of producing → consuming → throwing away (the traditional linear model), we re-exploit scraps and unexploited leftovers for other uses. This limits the pollution linked to extraction and gives value to the waste, and bring resources back into the economy. …


More responsible consumption and consumers armed against greenwashing in all sectors: the von der Leyen Commission does not lack ambition for the years to come.

The EU has one of the most comprehensive consumer policies in the world. Since 1992, promoting the health, interests and safety of European citizens in all aspects of the economy is part of the EU competencies. It covers areas such as competition, passenger rights, food safety, and financial services. However, the last integrated “consumer agenda” was presented in 2012, and the subsequent consumer programme was adopted in 2014 and was to run until 2020. Many changes happened since 2014, therefore, this programme needed thorough updating. …


The European Commission is putting the Green Deal ambitions on track. Europe aims at becoming the first “climate-neutral continent” by 2050, and this requires, of course, steady investments and the massive mobilisation of public and private resources. As announced in December, the Green Deal will have to have a robust social justice dimension to “leave no one behind”. In this context, the Commission has made clear that the “green transition must put people first, and pay attention to the regions, industries and workers who will face the greatest challenges”.

The verdict is indisputable. As the Yellow Vests reminded us, without the commitment of the people, it is impossible to build societies that are more resilient to climate change. Everyone needs to be on board to turn the constraints of transition into opportunities for economic and social development. Except that not all European territories are starting out with the same strengths and the same challenges, and not all people are equipped with the right tools and skills to deal with climate change. Some regions are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels and polluting industries, such as coal, as it is the case in Poland. Likewise, the workers in the territory of Taranto, in Puglia, in the south of Italy, heavily affected by the job cuts of the ex-ILVA steel plant, would be natural beneficiaries of the Just Transition Fund. …


Here are a few intakes on energy poverty and social justice extracted from the European Green Deal Communication presented on 11 December 2019. This is not an exhaustive analysis, but a first assessment.

  1. The first point is — of course — the Just Transition fund “to leave no one behind”. The most vulnerable people and territories are likely to suffer more from climate change and environmental degradation. There are different needs for support to become more resilient and fit for the transition. As a result, the Just Transition Mechanism will focus on the most vulnerable people, regions and sectors most affected by the transition and currently dependent on more polluting systems. Support will be linked to promoting a transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient activities. To protect those most affected, workers and citizens will have access to re-skilling programmes, jobs in new economic sectors or energy-efficient housing. The fund will mobilise European public and private resources as well as the EIB Group. …


On Thursday 14 November 2020, the European Investment Bank (EIB) adopted a new energy lending policy and confirmed the EIB’s increased ambition in climate action and environmental sustainability. In practice, the EIB voted to end financing for fossil fuel projects from the end of 2021. From 2025, 50% of its investments go to climate and sustainable investment projects. The EIB Group will align all financing activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement from the end of 2020. …


On 25 July 2019, French deputies and senators agreed on a text aimed at gradually eliminating the “passoires thermiques”(literally, the “thermal sieves”), i.e. the housing that is very poorly insulated (classified as “F” or “G”). Housing conditions are one of the primary cause of energy poverty, and the main focus of NGOs and activists in France.

In France, according to the Energy Poverty Observatory, 15% of inhabitants report having suffered from the cold for at least 24 hours during the winter of 2017. 11.6% …


I recently visited the construction of the extension of line 11 of the Paris underground railway. The expansion of the line has enabled a dialogue between the key players in the east of Paris and catalysed a process of rethinking local development in a deprived area of the French capital.

Inside the Rosny-Bois-Perrier station[/caption]

Theextension of line 11from Mairie des Lilas to Rosny-Bois-Perrier is one of the many projects undertaken to modernise and develop the Ile-de-France transport network, in line with the framework of the Grand Paris Express project. The extension of Line 11 is an integrated project, directly involving cities, companies and local communities. …

About

Marine Cornelis

Founder of NextEnergyConsumer. Working on the social aspects of the energy and climate transitions

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