12 February 2009
No Green 'New Deal' without appropriate skills!
EU climate plans and economic growth require Europe-wide mobilisation in education and training, participants of the EESC's Public Hearing on Education and Training Needs for a Carbon-Free Energy Society concluded. Speakers including Energy Commissioner Piebalgs discussed challenges ahead and explored possible actions to promote climate and energy education.
Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said that "climate change is a challenge requiring major societal change. Through education and training we can unlock the talents of our citizens and grasp a huge environmental and economic opportunity for Europe. We expect that by 2050 EU society will be carbon free. You can't achieve this only by technical means, it has to be a change of consciousness. You can make an important contribution to that."
Edgardo Maria Iozia (Group II, Employees, Italy), rapporteur of the EESC's opinion on 'Education and Training Needs for a Carbon-Free Energy Society' requested by Commissioner Piebalgs, underlined that a way out of the current economic crisis is development of high-tech sectors in the field of environmental protection, but warned, "we must not let a lack of appropriate skills make us miss this opportunity to construct a Green 'New Deal'!"
Lavinia Andrei (Group III, Various Interests, Romania) emphasized the need to make energy and climate education part of early education and showed how grassroots initiatives in Romania have already begun to educate citizens and young people in interactive forms. Romanian MEP and vice-chairman of the ENVI Committee, Magor Imre Csibi (ALDE), underlined the need for a common EU energy policy focused on resources and their efficiency in use and which is developed on three pillars: optimising infrastructure, investing in renewables and increased awareness of energy efficiency.
Dr Rayner Mayer of the educational 'Kyoto in the home' project underlined that "young people in particular are willing to adopt changes in energy usage – if they understand why it is necessary." "Vocational training for construction SMEs is essential for providing skills for the job-creating renewable energy industries" stressed Riccardo Viaggi of the European Builders Confederation, who also challenged participants to "face the hard truth that it can be difficult for SMEs to train their staff. Training needs to be tailored to SMEs' needs, for example, bringing training to them in a 'mobile classroom'.
Paola Mazzucchelli of the European Renewable Energy Research Centres (EUREC) Agency set out the various technical and 'soft skills' which are required in the climate and energy sectors while Professor J. Owen Lewis reminded participants of the need to integrate training into mainstream university and vocational curricula. Julie Maridet of Fuel Cell Europe claimed that "EU Climate and Energy policy is mostly about technology push but must also be about demand side pull." Fiona Glover of the UK-based consultancy Global to Local said that training measures can allow public procurement to make a huge contribution to energy technology investment and encourage management techniques improving the energy and environmental performance of public bodies.
Copies of the presentations given will be available on the EESC website.