Climate transition cannot be a coin toss game

five bulb lights

The European Parliament’s debacle on the climate & energy package on the 8 of June is more than just an accident. The rejection of the carbon market (ETS) by 340 votes to 265 is a rout, revealing a profound dysfunction in parliamentary work that threatens the credibility of the Green Deal as a whole. A serious self-examination of the elected representatives is urgently needed.

Rather than working hand in hand to find a common overall consistant position, the three main political groups – the EPP, Renew and the Socialists – have preferred posturing and have shown themselves incapable of establishing the minimum level of trust among them to build a broad majority, key to the democratic legitimacy of difficult choices.

Yet this legitimacy will be fundamental in the years to come. And it is not too late to change the course and engage in building a real majority beyond petty politics. The Green Deal will have concrete impacts on the Citizens’ daily lives : more expensive transport, more expensive food, higher housing and energy costs.

If today, political games prevail over building a shared vision, what will happen when decision-makers will have to assume the effects of their votes, which will inevitably create deep fragmentation within our societies? If everyone passes the quid, the Green Deal is bound to go off course the sooner or later.

Beyond the democratic stakes, the management of transitions in each of the sectors concerned requires great technical expertise, sector by sector: setting major objectives, posturing or accusing others of being in the hands of this or that lobby may help reaching the headlines, but, as the IPCC indirectly reminded us, this does not make for a successful transition. Hundred times in their last report, the experts remind us that the fight against climate change requires the management of compromises and synergies. When it comes to finding solutions, posturing is of little help.

Therefore, the game of a few, masters in the search for alternative majorities to impose their views to the detriment of a central and stable majority, playing with the Greens (who exclude themselves from the majority) for some or with the far right for others, could be seen as a natural political game in a forum marked by great diversity and a real and deep attachment to democracy. However, it is deleterious and, in the end, irresponsible.

To consider that a vote, important for the future of Europe, has been derailed by 6 divergent and tricky majority, opposing “progressives” and “conservatives” within the current majority of the Parliament, creates the conditions for a political deadlock rather than real leadership. This is tantamount to flipping a coin on the Green Deal, even though sincere work within the central, pro-European camp should be the rule in order to find a broad alliance that reflects the political diversity of the Parliament and the diversity of the countries that make it up, and which in many ways transcends the political groups. This would give the Parliament’s position in the negotiations with the Member States its credibility, and therefore its strength.

The Parliament’s vote on car emission standards is revealing. Rather than seeking a compromise with all the main political forces, the rapporteur for the dossier preferred to build an alternative and narrow majority, putting an end to internal combustion engines without incorporating the alternatives or flexibilities demanded by the ‘conservatives’, or listening to the concerns, particularly of the Central European countries.

Certainly, in the West part of the European Union and within the wealthy urban population, one can rejoice in this political victory for the climate through a strong symbol. But one can also wonder about the sustainability of such decisions, which are based on the marginalisation of entire sections of the hemicycle, with the frustrations and possible impasses that this entails for a large part of the population, the most fragile.

Bringing complexity to life in order to build compromises on a continental scale is the only possible way to build truly virtuous transitions and dynamics. The Parliament had succeeded in doing this, for example, by integrating gas into the complex equation of the energy transition two years ago. The Russian war has shattered this internal political balance in Europe. A new consensus is needed, much more complex to find. But if we do not manage to build shared political dynamics among Europeans, how can we hope to do so on a global scale and really think about changing the course of climate change?

Leave a Reply