A Sting Exclusive: “Consumer expectations for the 2015 UN summit on climate change”, Director General of BEUC Monique Goyens outlines from Brussels

Monique Goyens_BEUC

Mrs Monique Goyens is the Director General of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

The article is exclusively Co-authored for the Sting by Mrs Monique Goyens, Director General of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and Mrs Sylvia Maurer, Head of Sustainability and Safety in the organisation.

The negative consequences of climate change are already and will increasingly be affecting consumers worldwide. We experience lower health standards due to air pollution, extended heat waves and will suffer from new diseases. Food security and the richness of our diets will be threatened through a loss of biodiversity. Without a major transition in the way we produce and consume, consumers will experience higher living costs for food, transport, energy and natural disaster insurance premiums. Hence, there is a very prominent interest for consumers and consumer organisations to fight further global warming.

While many consumers are keen on taking small steps such as using energy saving light bulbs or sorting waste, some are already going beyond and switch towards electric cars and engage in self-generation of electricity through solar panels. Yet, most consumers feel neither empowered nor motivated to make bolder moves. This is partly because consumers, usually no experts in energy or climate issues, do not see how their contribution matters in relation to the urgency and scale of the problem and because they receive too many contradicting messages on what they are expected to do. Consumers need better support through the right framework conditions to make a change in lifestyles.

Concrete steps

First, there are multiple market failures which need to be addressed. Today, the polluter pays principle does not work: those consumers who seek to live more sustainably have often to pay a higher price. Why do they have to pay for not polluting? One step that needs to be undertaken in this regard is for governments to urgently eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies and progress substantially with green financial reforms, thereby lowering prices for sustainable products and services. Environmental costs have to be incorporated in the purchase price and social standards have to be respected.

Second, we have to find ways how to get out of the vicious circle of living in a “throw-away” society. Too often, consumers do not receive quality for money: many products are not designed to last long or cannot be repaired. Policy makers should make sure that the life-span of products will be extended. This can be done through measure such as Ecodesign and Ecolabelling which could set requirements on the design, on reparability, upgradeability, re-use and recycling of products.

Third, regulators need to ensure that consumers are provided with clear, comparable and credible information on climate impact of the products and services they buy. Consumers should for example be provided with information on how long a product is expected to last, if a product can be repaired and for how long spare parts will be made available. Many labelling schemes do not work effectively as consumers ‘drown’ in a flood of meaningless and unsubstantiated green claims. Untapped potential lies therefore in improving the guidance document on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive which currently falls short to give specific advice on how to remove environmentally misleading advertisements from the market. A concrete possibility to provide consumers with more effective information about energy efficiency is the ongoing revision of the EU Energy Label: this information scheme should become again an intuitive information tool with a simple scale from green “A” for the most efficient to a red “G” for the least efficient. Likewise, the EU labelling scheme for the fuel consumption of cars has to be revised to follow this intuitive logic. Consumers also need access to transparent and comparable information on green electricity offers.

How do consumers tick?

Behavioral economics research points out that well-designed measures can overcome individuals’ cognitive and motivational barriers to adopt climate change mitigation measures while increasing individual and collective welfare. We need not only to better structure economic incentives but also to make better use of non-financial incentives – for instance measures which increase convenience or are beneficial for our health. To take one example: the success of electric vehicles in Norway is – in addition to tax incentives – also related to the fact that there are free parking spaces in cities and that the bus or taxi lane can be used.

While much attention is currently given to the question of who has to cut how much in emissions and by when, very little attention is given in these international negotiations to the impact that such an agreement will have on the every-day-live of consumers. However, believing that the changes can be imposed ‘top-down’ rather than based on broad support of citizens is a false assumption. Consumers need to understand what emission sources (e.g. car emissions, heating, food production) matter in terms of impacts and what concrete changes they should do in their daily habits. We therefore emphasise that governments should allocate the necessary time and resources to explain to consumers their policies on climate change, help them understand the reasoning behind certain actions and involve consumers through structured dialogues and projects. Only if we manage to create a common vision on a sustainable future with a good quality of life, we will have the chance to have people on board for the big challenges which lie ahead.

In 2009, consumer organisations left the UN summit in Copenhagen with great disappointment because there was no agreement on a binding protocol suitable to prevent dangerous global warming.

We expect that in Paris policy makers agree to an ambitious and binding agreement which will prevent further climate change – and it has to be done now.

About the authors

Monique Goyens_BEUC

As Director General of BEUC, Monique represents 41 independent national consumer associations in 31 European countries, acting as a strong consumer voice in Brussels, ensuring that consumer’ interests are given weight in the development of policies and raising the visibility and effectiveness of the consumer movement through lobbying EU institutions and media contacts.

As a consumer expert and advocate, she was member of the EU High-level Expert Group on reforming the structure of the EU banking sector (Liikanen group – 2012), the EU High-level Group on the sustainability of the food supply chain (2011-2014) and the EU Resource Efficiency Platform (2012-2014). She is a delegate in the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change of the European Economic and Social Committee as well as an effective member of the Euro Retail Payments Board. Recently, she has been appointed in the Advisory Group of the European Commission on the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP).

In her capacity as BEUC Director General, Monique is currently EU co-chair of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) a network of EU and US consumer organisations, and she also represents BEUC at Consumers International, the international consumer organisation.

Apart from championing consumer’ rights, Monique’s passions/challenges are her family, cooking for friends and long walks with her golden retriever.

Mrs Sylvia Maurer is the Head of Sustainability and Safety at BEUC

Mrs Sylvia Maurer is the Head of Sustainability and Safety at BEUC

Sylvia Maurer is Head of Sustainability and Safety at BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation. BEUC has a membership of 41 well respected, independent national consumer organisations from 31 European countries. BEUC acts as the umbrella group in Brussels for these organisations and defends the interests of all Europe’s consumers. Sylvia works on sustainable consumption and production and supervises externally funded projects on the implementation of the EU Ecodesign Directive, the EU Energy Label, the EU Ecolabel, sustainable cars, renewable energies and on chemicals in international trade agreements. Sylvia provides intelligence, information and advice to BEUC’s member organisations in the area of environment and safety. She is the EU-Co chair of the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) Policy Committee on Nanotechnologies. Sylvia joined BEUC in December 2007 and she studied Political Science and European Studies at the Universities of Bonn, Bradford and Berlin.

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Booking.com commits to align practices presenting offers and prices with EU law following EU action

Forward Agenda: What can we expect from 2019?

At UN, Somalia’s President spotlights country’s progress, but cautions eradicating terrorism ‘will not be easy’

The German banks first to profit from public subsidies of trillions

Eurozone: Economic sentiment-business climate to collapse without support from exports

The EU threatens to impose extra import duties on Chinese products

UN official sees ‘unprecedented opportunities’ to make progress on peace in Afghanistan

Pharmaceuticals conceal drug side effects with the EU’s Court blessing

6 things to know about the General Assembly as UN heads into high level week

230 Junior Entrepreneurs and over 70 guests attended the International Congress on “Entrepreneurial Skills for Youth”

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Syrian detainees, Zimbabwe hunger crisis, Kabul attack, Mexico disappearances, new tech to feed the world

Stop the waste: UN food agencies call for action to reduce global hunger

Working with millennials, leaders say humility works better than bossing around

The sad plight of fledging doctors

Oil prices could remain depressed for at least a year. Here’s why

Eurozone: Subdued inflation can lead to more recession

GSMA announces first speakers for Mobile 360 Series-Middle East and North Africa

Iraq: Solutions needed ‘urgently’ to quell ongoing violence, break political deadlock

People are scared of artificial intelligence – here’s why we should embrace it instead

The EU Commission openly repudiates the austere economic policies

Coronavirus (COVID-19): truth and myth on personal risk perception

OECD sees rising trade tensions and policy uncertainty further weakening global growth

Fed, ECB take positions to face the next global financial crisis; the Brits uncovered

This is how companies are working together to create a world without waste

OECD Steel Committee concerned about excess capacity in steel sector

Outgoing UN official praises Iraq’s ‘exemplary peaceful transfer of power’ at the top

The link between migration and technology is not what you think

COP25: UN climate change conference, 5 things you need to know

This is how we make cancer care sustainable and available for all

Sustainability is now mission critical for businesses. Here’s why

Intel, Almunia and 1 billion euros for unfair potatoes

JADE Testimonial #1: Marcello @ Enlargement

Banning out-of-hours work emails could make some employees more stressed, research finds

Is your smart home as safe as you think?

In Bangladesh, COVID-19 threatens to cause a humanitarian crisis

70 years on, landmark UN human rights document as important as ever

UN rights chief calls for international inquiry into Kashmir violations

Fossil fuel support is rising again in a threat to climate change efforts

UN General Assembly celebrates 20 years of promoting a culture of peace

Can we understand how the universe was formed? A young scientist explains

COVID-19: Commission steps up research funding and selects 17 projects in vaccine development, treatment and diagnostics

3 ways digitalization will help end crime

Japan’s agro-food sector would benefit greatly from policies to boost innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable resource use

Italian voters put again the European Peoples in the Brussels picture

Commission caps charges on card and Internet payments and enforces competition

Commission notifies the Republic of Panama over the need to step up action to fight against illegal fishing

Ocean life faces ‘onslaught of threats’ from human activity, but tools exist to save it

The IMF overstates the risks for Eurozone and downgrades the threats for the US economy

Efforts to save the planet must start with the Antarctic

Egypt is building one of the world’s largest solar parks

EU budget agreement rejected by the European Parliament

This afternoon Britain will be once more isolated from mainland Europe

Generation Z will outnumber Millennials by 2019

Eurobarometer: protecting human rights tops citizens’ list of EU values

Currency Union might not let an independent Scotland join the EU as the “Yes” front now leads

COP21 Breaking News_10 December: the final sprint of the Final Agreement Negotiations

A Sting Exclusive: “Europe needs decisive progress for stronger cybersecurity”, EU Commissioner Gabriel highlights from Brussels

‘Concerted effort’ must be made to help 600 million-plus adolescent girls realize full potential: Guterres

UN chief praises impact of Palestine refugee agency as ‘our common success’, at key pledging conference

Humanitarian aid: EU steps up support in Nigeria for conflict victims

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s