Europe at its best is a collaboration of nation states to solve cross border, international and joint challenges together, many of which are environmental and climate-related. When it was established, peace was the biggest challenge, right now it is climate change and the collapse of the economic system. Europe is changing and 2019 is a turning point. People sense that change is happening and it worries them. Young people worry about their future, the bread earners worry about the end of the month. Those who feel left behind rise up to demand justice and reparations from the elite. Far-right populists exploit this insecurity and spread division and fear, but the climate movement is here to amplify their voices, connect their struggles and speak truth to power by defining and demanding real climate action and real future for all Europeans.
In 2019, the priority for the European Climate movement is to bring real climate action close to the top of the European agenda, for it to shape politics towards a progressive unity and to result in stronger joint EU 2030 targets.
Who had set this priority? As much as we would like to claim our influence here, it was not us. But we are blind if we do not see the great opportunity, which is at the intersection of market dynamics, societal issues, UNFCCC science and progressive EU politics. We have a clear role to play in making sure that this upsurge results in systemic shifts and push the EU back into the progressive lead role of the world.
This is an all hands on deck situation for the European climate movement, meaning that we have to run responsive, hard-hitting campaigns at home as well as collaborate effectively at the European level. Business as usual lobbying strategies, assuming that the EU institutional mechanisms will make it happen will not help to seize this opportunity. There is a need for bold campaigning, in a similar style and level of ambition of what we see from the Democrat Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio Cortez on the US Green New Deal.
“ We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself. We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.” Greta Thunberg
What is working for the European climate movement right now?
People are rising. End of the month, the end of the world is the same struggle
Despite the attempt of the conservative, neoliberal right to change the narrative to nationalism instead of collective action against inequality and climate change, European movements are still rising and protesting against the elite, to fight back rising cost of living, shrinking democratic space, inaction on climate change, corruption, clamp down on social rights and equity. We have the opportunity to bring climate action higher on the political agenda by demonstrating how it can address social and economic issues in Europe and work on connecting various social movements under this agenda.
Credible climate leaders are emerging
Students, local mayors, parents have become fierce advocates of systemic change, including real action on climate by taxing the polluters and the rich. There are plenty of credible leaders that we can work with who can advocate for solid European climate action.
National climate deals are in the making
More and more countries are drafting and discussing their national climate deal in response to the Paris Agreement and in response to the need to have Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)set by the end of this year. This bottom-up process can lead to a critical mass of countries pushing for higher EU-level climate ambitions for the 2030 targets, which would be binding for all the 27 member states.
EU Commission has launched a long term climate strategy and a review of the EU 2030 targets
There is an institutional process opened and led by the Commission to align the EU`s climate ambition to Paris Agreement. As part of that, the Commission launched a long term climate strategy for Europe and also aiming to update the 2030 climate and energy targets.
Strong Europe = strong climate action
The threat of right-wing, neoliberal agendas hijacking progressive European politics has been a wake-up call to many. The climate movement can use the EU elections and the growing movements in many countries to generate political pressure and put climate action back on the EU`s top 3 priorities. Studies repeatedly show that implementing the Paris Agreement is the best way to bring Social Europe higher on the EU’s agenda.
What is challenging for the European climate movement right now?
Divisive politics targetting European climate consensus
Those like Trump and many right-wing populists who are against a strong multilateral action on climate change has been using the European uprisings.
Climate policy costs are rising, in midst of growing inequality
Inequality in Europe ( inter and across member states) is still high especially in the peripheries of the EU, regions which are also affected by the phase-out of fossil fuels. Where national climate policies are being drafted, the main discussion topic is who will pay for it. If we want to avoid polarisation of the public ( inside member states as well as among members states) we need to make sure we address this issue with how we define climate action in Europe.
Major European states fail to show leadership on climate
Germany and France are lagging behind in pushing the rest of Europe towards global climate leadership. We have to concentrate on non-state actors and also those smaller to medium size progressive states in Europe who are ready to act.
In order to seize the opportunities and mitigate the challenges, the European climate movement needs to reinforce the public consensus on climate action by making social and economic justice central to its agenda. If emerging social and economic justice movements join forces with the European climate movement, real and meaningful climate action will become once again one of the priorities on Europe’s agenda. A clear indicator of that would be if 2019 ended with higher EU 2030 targets for CO2 emission reductions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. This would also be a starting point for a European Green New Deal, one that would enjoy the backing of member states too.
Good luck to us all.