The implementation of sustainability policies in Europe in recent years has encountered social obstacles. Little by little, it is realized that a radical transformation in the structures of society in the sense of protecting the environment will demand from governments more than a mere subsidy.
This can be seen from the green energy policy applied in Spain, especially in Madrid. The Spanish government intends to replace the energy source for homes with a more sustainable version. For this, it granted a subsidy of 30% of the costs for the implementation of solar panels.
Although the proposal is based on an attempt to start a process of replacing the main structures with a view to a more sustainable world, the reality of different social strata has been blocking this process, and raising essential questions in political and social disputes.
Sustainability policy and social inequality
The 30% subsidy of solar panel installations in the homes proved to be a great benefit for those families who had the amount in their budget and, with the policy, received a 30% discount on the costs.
But this is not the reality for the majority of the population. In the poorest neighborhoods of Madrid, the policy has not been implemented with such fervor. This is because funding the remaining 70% of solar panels has proved to be a great difficulty. These families live on a low budget, and a renovation of this magnitude is unthinkable for most of them.
Therefore, the benefit of reducing the electricity bill also ends up becoming a privilege of the richest who, in principle, would have less difficulty in paying the expenses.
This situation is quite similar to what was observed in France at the time of the “yellow vests” movement. At the time, President Emmanual Macron intended to impose a tax on fossil fuels, diesel and gasoline, to discourage consumption in the name of protecting the environment.
However, the lack of access of the majority of the population to ecological vehicles and the structure as a whole made the president back down. In the end, politics would be another mechanism to protect the wealthier citizens, who had the resources to make this transition without compromising budgets.
The mere distribution of subsidies to encourage the application of environmental policies in Europe has been shown to be flawed, and a cause of increasing inequalities.
In this context, Belgium demonstrated greater competence in dealing with the situation by establishing that the granting of subsidies was variable. Thus, the amount granted by the government for the application of sustainability policies varies according to family income.
In this way, the idea is to create a pattern based on the damage that each family experiences to meet the requirements of greening homes, in proportion to the specific gains. In other words, families that earn more would have a lower subsidy and families that earn less would have a higher subsidy.
The business sectors of society, on the other hand, argue that the lack of demand by more layers of society for the transformation of residences occurs because the imminent result is not seen. They believe that, by observing the reduction in the accounts of those who have already had the procedure, the transition will be gradual and increasing.
One way or another, Europe is walking slowly to meet the decarbonization goal by 2026. Nesse meio tempo, social and political questions reveal that this transformation will be more costly than imagined. The governments will have to work more actively so that the population agrees with the changes, without increasing social inequality.