The transition to a cleaner world is possible and desirable. However, feasible does not mean easy; avoiding the irreversible impacts of climate change and gaining the environmental, economic, and health benefits associated with tackling climate change will be difficult.
In sum, this was the ultimately encouraging message from Birgit Aru, Policy Officer at European Commission DG for Climate Action, Marco Giuli, Doctoral Researcher from the Institute for European Studies, and Felix Heilmann, Researcher from the independent climate change think tank E3G – speakers of the seminar “Climate Change Policy of the EU: How to Reach Domestic Consensus and Global Leadership”, organised by the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute (EFPI) at ICDS on 26 November 2019. The seminar, moderated by EFPI Fellow Piret Kuusik, demystified EU climate policy and highlighted both the challenges and progress made to combat human-induced global climate change.
First, Birgit Aru outlined the EU’s recognition of the very real and very serious risk climate change poses and the EU’s action plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. This plan largely rests on seven key building blocks – areas where significant progress should be made – including energy efficiency, energy supply, mobility, industry, infrastructure, bioeconomy, and carbon capture. Aru also covered the EU’s emphasis on a “just transition” – which is to say an inclusive modernization process that does not abandon vulnerable stakeholders – and outlined the latest developments concerning EU climate action, what to expect from the incoming EU Commissioner and the EU in the years to come.
Afterward, Marco Giuli explained how (with some caveats) Central and Eastern European states have traditionally been understood as followers (and sometimes even contrarians) to the climate issue and how the domestic factors of individual member states (perceptions regarding trade-offs, the strategic dimension of energy security, resource endowments, etc.) are affecting the climate discussion. Moreover, he observed that the climate change issue in Europe could face increasing politicization by far left and right-wing groups. Giuli ended on the key message that while division concerning climate change in Europe was previously considered just an East-West split, similar internal cleavages are now emerging within member states in both the East and West.
Felix Heilmann spoke last, cautioning that while the Paris Agreement has made us safer, the global community is not safe yet. Some “headwinds” blowing against climate progress were brought up, such as potential US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Brexit, and Chinese uncertainty. However, some promising “tailwinds” provided hope, including the declining price of renewable energy, growing awareness of the consequences of extreme weather, and rising support for climate action from young people. Felix Heilmann closed out with the message that the EU can and should lead global climate efforts by setting an example and promoting effective international cooperation.
This was the last seminar in the EFPI series “Engaging with Europe of Tomorrow” organised together with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. At the seminars, experts from both Estonia and abroad analysed and discussed the EU’s topical challenges: the rule of law, trade, and climate policy.
Read about the previous events:
- Rule of Law in the EU: Punishing or Preventing Possible Problems?
- The EU as a Trade Superpower: Distinguish Protectionism from Protection