On 9 September, the European Commission published its first ever “Foresight Report for a Resilient Europe”. This cross-sectoral initiative aims to identify emerging challenges and opportunities and support the European Union in steering existing and future EU policy choices. The report should act as a future-proof tool considering EU resilience in four dimensions: social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital and are part of the EU Recovery Strategy. For each dimension, the report identifies the capacities, vulnerabilities and opportunities revealed by the COVID-19 crisis, which need to be addressed in the medium-and long-term. These should stimulate the discussions amongst Member States and other key stakeholders on how to best monitor resilience.
The report looks at several different aspects for resilience within its green dimension. As first example, the report looks ahead to build resilience with regard to Europe’s resources. For example, secure supply of materials that are adding to the green approach by using batteries in electric cars. Here, the JRC already published its report on the latest raw material for Europe’s green and digital agenda.
Moreover, it focuses on Member States’ relative vulnerabilities and capacities with regards to climate change mitigation and adaptation and a range of other indicators for environmental degradation as well as biodiversity protection. The vulnerability aspects that the report focuses on includes indicators for environmental threats like biodiversity loss (through the common farmland bird index), the pressure on the renewable freshwater resources (water exploitation index), soil erosion by water, the impact of air pollution (years of life lost attributable to PM 2.5 pollution), and GHG emissions per capita. Furthermore, it also looks more closely at other vulnerabilities within Member States such as energy poverty and reskilling of work forces from energy intensive coal industries sectors.
In the resilience capacity aspect of the report, there are government-related dimensions (aspects of institutional quality and regulation like public expenditures on environmental protection, citizen involvement, the size of protected areas), and factors from the economic and environmental domain.
Public expenditures on environmental protection provide insights on the efforts of public actions to environmental protection. The engagement of people and communities are also included as essential elements for the green transition (population covered by the Covenant of Mayors initiative and citizen involvement).
Finally, the share of insured losses due to climate related extreme events is also included, as insurance is a major tool to transfer the losses to a party that is better prepared to absorb them.
What this report means for future EU policy making is that the 2020 Strategic Foresight Report will inform President von der Leyen’s annual State of the Union addresses and the Commission’s Work Programmes. It will also contribute to supporting the Commission to set up the overall EU priorities as well as in cross-cutting issues such as the future potential of green jobs and required skills, and the intersections of the green and digital transitions across policies.
Without a doubt, the crisis of COVID-19, which has more or less triggered the Commission to write this Foresight Report, has brought Europe and the world to the limits of their capacities. Access to the essential resources such as clean water, energy supply, waste management, a functional public transport system and needless to say a reliable health care system, have shown once more the work of public service providers and Services of General interest were relentlessly continuing their service to the public without a break. Undoubtedly, Services of General interest are one of the pillars of European resilience and our highest interest at CEEP is to continue strengthening their work on the European level.
The report will be at the heart of the discussions of CEEP Sustainability Board meeting, on 13 October 2020.