“Let’s Assume The EU Green Deal Works Out In Europe. What Will The Rest Of The World Look Like?”

Dr. Christian School (left), Dr. Serdar Türkeli (right)

Interview with Christian Scholl and Serdar Türkeli, Heads of Research, 89 Netherlands
Originally posted on the Studio Europa Maastricht blog

Christian Scholl and Serdar Türkeli, both passionate about climate policy, are the new directors of the Dutch arm of the pan-European 89 Initiative. What are their plans for their first year in charge of the group, and what do they think about the European Green Deal? 

 “Cooperatives have a real potential. They could shape sustainable development, but they’re utilised poorly.” says Christian Scholl, assistant professor at the Maastricht Sustainability Institute and recently appointed co-director of the Dutch chapter of the 89 Initiative, a think-and-do tank working across Europe to mobilise a new generation of thinkers and policymakers. 

Scholl’s research asks how people can best participate in questions of sustainability in cities. He points to groups of citizens who have jointly invested in solar panels as a current example. At the 89 Initiative, he will oversee research on democracy. “Where I can, I will link my work to the climate”, says Scholl, “and specifically to the role cooperatives can play in the energy transition. I want to explore how EU policies can harness the power of cooperatives”. 

“Many people think money is the solution to our climate problems. But it might not be that straightforward”, adds his co-director Serdar Türkeli, director of the 89 Initiative’s programme on climate, comprehensive innovation team lead for climate action and policy researcher at UNU-MERIT, a collaboration between the UN University and Maastricht University. “Of course it can be useful to solve problems, but money can be destructive as well.” If countries end up favouring climate adaptation over preemptive measures, providing services for the worst-impacted regions could become a new market to be exploited by companies, for example. “We should stay away from that experiment”, says Türkeli. 

“The European Green Deal is not radical enough to confront our climate problems” 

Scholl and Türkeli are in the process of recruiting a team of policy officers for the 89 Initiative. “Our role is to inject knowledge into debates, but it’s also to inspire action, says Scholl. “We’re working with students and younger generations, using their insights to inform EU policymakers.”  

Recently, EU officials have struggled to implement the first stages of the European Green Deal, a short, 24-page document that outlines the ambition for a climate-neutral EU by 2050. 

“Policymakers and politicians argue that it’s a radical deal”, says Türkeli, who is quick to add that those who are set to bear the costs of the climate crisis might disagree.  “Ultimately, all of these interventions are fifty years too late. But I appreciate the effort. It is just so difficult to bring policymakers together and find that sort of consensus.” 

“One of the main flaws of the EU New Green Deal is the concept of net zero”, Scholl adds.  European leaders want the EU to be carbon-neutral by 2050. “But people often miss that that doesn’t mean the EU won’t emit CO2”, says Scholl. “It just says they want to stop emitting on the European continent. Instead, the EU will just offset emissions made elsewhere, compensating them by planting trees, for example.”  

It’s a strategy that raises a lot of questions about climate justice, says Scholl. “Let’s assume the EU reaches net zero by 2050. What will the rest of the world look like? We need clarity from the EU about the rest of the world”, says Scholl. 

Türkeli signals another concern about the Green Deal: its lack of citizen participation. “The EU has made so little effort to engage the people affected. There is a basic online consultation. You click on a link and leave your ideas, but it’s very limited.”

“Citizens are expected to be sustainable, while governments and companies remain big emitters” 

This approach is a tradition of EU policy-making, says Scholl. “For decades now, one of the major criticisms of the EU has been the huge distance between citizens and these rather bureaucratic EU institutions. That fundamental issue still persists today”. 

Both believe the lack of participation makes the public debate on climate policy more hostile. “People get the impression that companies and governments are punishing them. Businesses and governments expect citizens to be sustainable, but remain big emitters themselves”, says Türkeli. “The message people hear is: there are too many of you and you emit too much, but at the top we’ll have fun with the resources and fossil fuels.” 

Scholl agrees. “Getting citizens to engage in policy is often seen as trying to get them to do something, like reducing their footprint. You rarely flip that on its head, and get the public telling industry to cut emissions. That’s indicative of the limited way we think about participation. You could also form citizen councils and give them influence in the year plans of Shell’s business strategy, for example.’  

security for both states despite their efforts for further European defence
cooperation. The agreement builds on the NATO Charter and the EU’s Lisbon
Treaty’s Article 42 rather than circumventing them.
Secondly, concerning strategic autonomy, it is hard for the deal to be a step
towards that direction, given that the very concept of strategic autonomy is highly
contested. Notably, the two quintessential EU states – Germany and France – do not
agree on its content. For France and President Macron, the EU should move towards
a direction that will eventually allow the EU to be independent of NATO and the US
in security and defence matters. As things stand, the forces of EU member states
cannot mobilise without NATO’s logistical support. Additionally, despite the launch
of PESCO and the European Defence Fund, the EU is far from achieving the
interoperability needed for Macron’s vision of strategic autonomy to materialise.
Germany’s views on the matter diverge since the view from Berlin is that, although
Europe should do more regarding its security, the US and NATO should remain the
foundational pillar of European security.
Given that these two actors have differing ideas on what strategic autonomy
is, the Greco-French agreement at best seems closer to the start of a “coalition of
the willing”. In that case, some EU member states led by France would be ready to
become strategically autonomous from the US and NATO, while the rest would
continue to view NATO and the US as their security umbrella. In short, without
further integration on other fronts like fiscal policy, it would be highly unlikely that
the EU will be able to formulate a common interest in the realm of security that
would eventually lead to an accepted notion of strategic autonomy.
Conclusively, the deal is of great significance to both parties because it
illustrates their deepening cooperation, enhances the Greek Navy’s capabilities, and
simultaneously, softens the blow to President Macron from the fallout from the
AUKUS deal. Nonetheless, it is vital to place the deal on its true footing. It is
doubtful that France would come to Greece’s aid in the Aegean if Turkey ever
attacked. Given the impact that geopolitical crises in the Middle East and
Afghanistan will have on migration and refugee flows, it is more likely that despite
the hard talk exchanged between Macron and Erdogan, France would seek to find a
modus vivendi with Turkey to mitigate those challenges. Moreover, for Greece to
“break from its introversion”, to use a phrase the Greek Foreign Minister likes, itwould need more than an arms deal. Specifically, the country will need to escape
from its cycle of debt, given its exceptionally high debt-to-GDP ratio, and show that
it can use the opportunity of the EU Recovery Fund(NextGenEU) to reform its
economy. Finally, even though the Greek armed forces need modernisation, the
Greek government should be careful to strike a balance between modernisation and
an arms race. The Greco-Turkish dispute over the Aegean cannot be solved by an
arms race that would burden the struggling economies of both countries.

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