A little space to think

Policy op-ed by Claire Roumet


Publication date

February 13, 2020

This week, my director colleagues (ICLEI Europe, Climate Alliance, CEMR, Eurocities, Fedarene), and I met with the faculty of new European Commissioners. Therefore, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts and understandings without any pretension of impartiality. My thoughts might perhaps echo with the meetings you have had in recent months with leaders on a national or European level.

First of all, there’s a great ambition to make Europe the first continent to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. In a few weeks’ time, this objective must be translated into a proposal for a law making it legally binding. One of the milestones towards this edifice is already on the agenda for negotiation: the Just Transition Fund and its mechanism, which should allocate subsidies, facilitate access to credit and investments for the regions’ that are most dependent on fossil fuels. The territorial and partnership approach is a major step forward. It’s one of the first proposals on the legislative agenda that will run until mid-2021 (Green Deal) and has already started at a brisk pace. But does the executive have the stamina to keep up?

We’ve waited a long time for internal contradictions between the economic policies of  “always more” and those aimed at reducing our consumption to be recognized; from a national energy-climate program policy and an approach that would begin with local resources. But between the stated ambitions and the proposals that will be made, time is needed for reflection; there is so much to change!

Yes, there is an urgency to act, but there is also an urgency to take time to think. The desire to set the agenda in the first 100 days is forcing all European Commission departments to race frantically: to show that we are building momentum and inducing “storytelling”, telling a story that speaks directly to the citizens. Without leaving space for consultation, co-production or reflection! It is necessary to have a minimum of free-thinking neurons to imagine new solutions. It’s a team marathon, you have to think about the stages, the pit stops, the team-mates. Isabelle Delannoy, in her book “l’économie symbiotique” (Symbiotic economy), gives us a possible future based on our renewable resources and teaches us that the construction of these new models must make room for new forms of shared governance.

The Commission will launch its discussions for a “European Climate Pact” in early March for a few months. Why not give more time to encourage and involve everyone in the proposals? As proven by the Citizens’ Convention on Climate set up in France, this requires time, method and means as well. It is not a question of rewriting existing directives, it is a question of truly changing our policies, so let us take the time to do so, any other objective would be insufficient. This is also the impression that I have after these meetings, that of an effort far removed from the stakes, and which finally leaves each of us powerless, even though everything is still possible.