The pandemic has presented us with a unique opportunity to reconstruct our economies in a better way – we need greener, more sustainable economies that are fit for the future. That’s why we have the Next Generation EU recovery plan that will complement our Green Deal.
Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius
In the final dialogue of 2020, and the 100th online dialogue in the series since March, Commissioner Sinkevicius was joined virtually in the Berlaymont by many participants asking questions over Skype and the moderator based in Spain.
Organised in close cooperation with the Representation, the Dialogue was livestreamed in Spanish. Thanks to seamless online organisation, the Commissioner spoke in English, with interpretation into Spanish, while the moderator and citizens spoke in Spanish and and were interpreted into English for the Commissioner.
From the Just Transition Fund to the microplastics in our seas, to education and prospects for agricultural and fisheries workers, to youth activism and water contamination, many topics surrounding the Green Deal and the future of the planet were discussed in the lively virtual Citizens’ Dialogue.
The live chat started off with a key question – are we still on time to achieve climate neutrality by 2050? The Commissioner reacted that we are on time, we are acting today. Citizens need answers about how the pandemic has impacted the climate and the Green Deal, and we need to learn lessons from the pandemic, as we have seen how vulnerable many people are, as well as the precarious living standards under which many people live, here in the EU.
The first two questions from participants were both on the topic of youth – they wanted to know how they could do more to stop the climate crisis. The Commissioner emphasised that young people should feel ownership of the Green Deal, it is their achievement after embracing active citizenship on this topic – taking to the streets and putting pressure on politicians has lead us to this moment.
On the same subject, two other people wanted to know how there could be inviting prospects for those young people living in rural areas, working in the agricultural and fishing sectors, to continue working in those jobs.
Overfishing, microplastics in the seas and future prospects for professionals working in the fishing industry were all reoccurring topics, as well as water arriving as a commodity on the stockmarket, which was raised by a representative of the European Youth Parliament in Spain.
The Commissioner was emphatic that with the Green Deal we take people with us to support them in developing both their businesses and their lifestyles in the greenest way possible.
EU funds and inclusion were key topics throughout the live chat, with Javier from Valencia asking how the Commission is supporting cities across the EU in their green transitions. Meanwhile, a student from Cordoba wanted to know how people in rural areas would be included in the Green Deal. The Commissioner reiterated that the Green Deal’s fundamental concern is leaving nobody behind, that’s why we have the Just Transition Fund and structural funds cities can access. Climate change will affect our rural areas as much as our cities, and this is one of the biggest priorities of the Green Deal, he clarified.
Several participants asked about the circular economy and sustainability of products that will play an important role in the future e.g batteries that will charge in electric cars. The Commissioner emphasised that we import metals for these products from other countries – and with the Green Deal we want to be more independent and ensure our sustainability across every level of production and innovation. We must guarantee that we can reuse old batteries to create new ones for our electric cars.
On a hopeful note, Alicia asked via Facebook to which extent Europe could rely on itself alone in the fight against climate change, to which the Commisisoner replied that Europe needs to lead by example, we are already seeing changes across several continents, and we are now expecting a change in attitudes in the US with their upcoming return to the Paris Agreement iin the new year.
At the end of the live chat, the Commissioner offered to come to Madrid after the pandemic to talk with people face-to-face, and continue answering their questions at every possible opportunity.