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The ETUC and EPSU on cutting the number of firefighters while wildfires rage across Europe

At a time when several Member States are struggling to control unprecedented wildfires, a joint statement by the ETUC and EPSU quotes Eurostat figures showing that many Member States were reducing the number of firefighters as a measure to cut public spending. Accordingly, the number of firefighters has been cut in 10 EU Member States, despite the increased risk of fires as a result of the climate crisis. Between 2021 and 2022, France lost the highest number of firefighters (-5,446), followed by Romania (-4,250) and Portugal (-2,907). The biggest percentage cuts over the same period were made in Slovakia (‑30%), Bulgaria (-22%), Portugal (-21%) and Belgium (-19%). The ETUC and EPSU expressed their concern that the cuts will have affected Europe’s readiness to deal with fires caused by the hottest summer on record, and further cuts would be made if the EU reintroduces austerity rules in January 2024.

The ETUC and IndustriAll on competition policy

The European Trade Union Confederation and IndustriAll Europe call on Commissioner Vestager to distance herself from a press statement by the outgoing chief economist of DG Competition, Mr. Régibeau, saying that supporting European industry is a ‘waste of money’. The unions also ask the Commissioner to set out what measures she plans to take to support the future of Europe’s foundation industries through the energy crisis. They also call on the Commissioner to explain how she would reform EU competition policies to ensure that these take account of the interests of working people, and not only corporations and consumers. The unions expressed their hope that the Commission will pursue an active industrial policy that protects and creates high-quality jobs in European industry and delivers a just transition.

IndustriALL and ETF on a just transition for the transport sector

A workshop held in July, organised by IndustriAll and the European Transport Workers’ Federation, addressed the technical and social challenges of the green transition for workers in road transport. The participants argued for ‘technology neutrality’ and maintained that this should be seen as the ‘core principle’ of decarbonising road transport. They also said that, while battery electric vehicles and hydrogen (fuel cells and hydrogen in internal combustion engines) are the technologies most often seen as promoting climate neutrality in the sector, they argued against a ‘one size fits all’ solution. In the view of the participants, renewable fuels, as an alternative to fossil fuels, could also have a role to play, particularly in transport activities that are hard to electrify. Manufacturing industry representatives at the workshop insisted on the need to ensure that the enabling environment will be in place in time to reach the emissions reduction targets, notably in terms of charging infrastructure roll-out.

Cefic on the Commission’s 2040 climate target proposal

The European Commission has embarked on the process of establishing a 2040 climate target that sets the EU firmly on a path towards climate neutrality by 2050. It will be supported by an in-depth impact assessment, which will inform a draft law setting the 2040 target. The European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change (ESABCC) has advised the European Commission to propose a 90-95% GHG emission reduction by 2040 through a ‘fair and feasible’ pathway with a focus on reducing energy demand. A public consultation took place between March and June 2023.

As part of the public consultation process, Cefic (the European Chemical Industry Council) has submitted its position. While reiterating the commitment to the net zero 2050 EU climate policy target, the proposal calls for caution and specifies conditions before a specific interim target for GHG emission reduction by 2040 is announced. Accordingly, the European Commission should first undertake a comprehensive analysis that takes into account: (1) additional investments needed to reach the ambitious 2030 targets, (2) the pace of investments in renewable and low-carbon energy, feedstock and the related infrastructure, and (3) the impact of the ongoing energy crisis on industrial competitiveness. Cefic also argues that this analysis should take into consideration the contribution of transformative technologies in emissions reduction and the EU-specific cost of both emitted and avoided CO2. Furthermore, setting ambitious climate targets needs to be coupled with a thorough analysis of the impacts expected on the entire chemical value chain, on imports and exports. In this respect, climate and industrial policies adopted by competing economies and their impact on the attractiveness of low-carbon investments in Europe should also be addressed, as the pace of the transition is interlinked with the industry’s competitiveness. The industry federation has formulated four main demands as conditions before specific targets for 2040 are announced. These include European policies that would provide support for strategic industries to cope with the energy crisis, mitigate the risk of carbon leakage, develop a circular and sustainable carbon economy and allow access to carbon removal certificates for industrial installations.