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Europe as a green superpower?

The politics of hope
Forfatter: Bjarke Møller
Forlag: Future 21, (Danmark)

ENVIRONMENT: As a political project, the nations of Europe have failed to find common ground. Can the local and regional based on several "pacts" form the framework for a perspective – which will contribute to the development of a new paradigm?

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

In the IPCC's 6th progress report, science has made a clear statement on the future state of the climate [see page 2]. But the insights of science can be unheard of – even today it is necessary for social forces to demand the insights about, for example, the development of the climate brought before the authorities.

Agriculture, mobility and energy are major themes in a transition program for Europe.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, we all had to experience how little the world community knew about the pandemic as a very dynamic risk scenario. And not yet fully uncovered, with this summer's floods in Central Europe, we are awakened to realize and to have to find a language about the connections between climate disasters, climate protection and the transition to sustainability. Admittedly, extensive data are available on the weather, climate and biosphere, but now we are being seriously challenged in terms of knowledge and complexity in jet streams, hydrology and orography.

New covenants

Only 15 years after the EU presented an ambitious growth strategy on «Global Europe», Europe today is left with a series of crisis symptoms that are not immediately facing their clarification and solution. The former leader of the think tank «Europe», Danish Bjarke Møller, has described Europe's situation and challenges in almost 800 pages. Møller travels far and wide and arrives at the conclusion that Europe faces three absolutely crucial challenges that must be solved before Europe can take its place as a green superpower and become an inspirer for the rest of the world.

European citizens predominantly identify the EU with a top-down elite project set in the world to govern relations between states. Therefore, a new one is needed democracy pact according to Bjarke Møller, it is concluded that the EU «is also based on a strong democratic commitment from below». In addition, one must be established green pact so that fossil incineration and continued destruction of the environment and climate can be scrapped – and a green transition can be established for the benefit of the climate and biodiversity. According to Bjarke Møller, this must be done on a large scale and will mean that the proposed resources allocated to the EU Green Deal must be multiplied.

Bjarke Møller

As a third precondition for the establishment of Europe as a green superpower must be implemented one social pact. It must ensure the security of Europeans through tax restructuring, which can ensure "a solidary EU enlargement of national welfare models and ensure good and solid jobs for citizens". Research, education and a sustainable infrastructure must be given high priority, "so that Europe can remain competitive and regain its technological autonomy".

Admittedly, Bjarke Møller has an eye for the «democratic commitment from below». But does the author with his three basic pacts offer anything other than that the participation of civil society in the existing «European hamster wheel» should be intensified?

Local and regional initiatives?

In the book, Møller focuses on «building bridges» and wants to preserve the cohesion of society. But it goes wrong for the author when based on the international division of labor that is a result of economic globalization.

Following the financial crisis of 2008, the competitive state with nationalism and populism has marked a new era in the post-war set-up of the system of international institutions. A set-up which, combined with the easy access to cheap oil, has resulted in «the great acceleration». The majority of the production that, for example, Europe has had left to the countries of the East should be repatriated, for many reasons.

Where the financial crisis – as now Corona-crisis – could have given rise to more extensive new regulations of capitalism, then we have instead seen how social inequality has been on the rise. While the elite has supported the governments' support for banks, etc., the working class has been more and more ideologically divided, as it has not been possible to avoid, for example, the anti-immigrant positions from the Social Democrats.

Where Møller further focuses on the central national and European solutions, he overlooks the possibility that the local and regional can form the framework for a perspective that will contribute to developing a new paradigm that can replace the illusion of the sustainable growth on a finite planet. European countries have been able to immediately agree on a common market for goods, labor and services. One production pact in addition to the already mentioned three pacts should therefore be concluded, i.a. with a view to developing democracy at local and regional level.

And true enough, i.a. "The internal market" helped to ensure peace in Europe after two world wars. But as a political project, the nations of Europe have failed to find common ground. In addition, the different peoples of Europe have been too bound by their own historical interests and narratives. The common interest of peoples in adapting to a global consciousness is not yet very developed.

Already today, however, one can point to a number of such local and regional initiatives that follow the UN trail of «think globally, act locally». Here, a «alienation» is transformed into a «self-management» with responsibility for developing sustainable «life support systems» (infrastructure) and based on the council idea all the way down to the local and regional (citizen and area council). From the centralist and strictly hierarchical global division of labor, direct network democracy should be developed – by citizen groups – from the global to the local. And why not also with the participation of the EU institutions?

Agriculture, mobility and energy

At the same time as international aid for biodiversity should have doubled in 2020, for example, Danish aid has fallen sharply (INKA report, see Politiken, 15.6.21). Is the EU's action plan to achieve the EU's common goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030 also the same? That the popular pressure is not great enough to be able to abide by the Paris Agreement?

In the early spring of 2021, the EU decided to launch the "Conference on the Future of Europe", and we have citizen panels established in a few EU member states. As parts of the Yellow Vests in France and the association «Fearless Cities» have pointed out, planning for Europe's future must start from the bottom up – with a focus on and starting point in «the place», in the home and the home, the city-country relationship with security of supply and with support from life-support-systems (infrastructure). Education and research must be organized on the basis of quality and «good craftsmanship» and take place within the boundaries of the planet.

As also pointed out by Møller, agriculture, mobility and energy are major themes in a transition program for Europe. With China (the "Middle Kingdom" to the east and the United States to the west), it will be crucial whether a united Europe can lift a program for human rights and sustainability – as inspiration for other parts of the world. Only with the conclusion of the production pact mentioned (together with a social pact and a democracy pact) and thus a withdrawal from the «global hamster wheel» will it make sense to talk about Europe as a green superpower.

Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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