Climate change and the environment
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EP4U Debate on EU Climate Policy, September 22, Helsinki
What is the EU’s current climate plan? How does it stack up against the threat of permanent and irreversible climate change? And what actions should be taken now to ensure a future for our planet?
In the framework of the EP4U project, TEPSA is teaming up with Emma Hakala from the University of Helsinki and Finnish Institute of International Affairs to organise a University Debate on the topic of European Union climate action. The event takes place in an online format in Finnish, on September 22 at 12:00 noon local time (11:00 CET). Dr. Emma Hakala is a leading expert on climate security and the environment, and will moderate a stimulating discussion between Alviina Alametsä MEP, climate activist Ellen Ojala, and Ismo Ulvila, who is Head of Communication at the European Commission Representation in Finland.
The event will start with a presentation on the EU’s climate policy “in a nutshell” before moving on to a panel discussion on three key topics: EU Climate Goals and Ambition, Just Transition in the EU, EU Climate Policy in a Global Context.
This will be a fascinating event for young students eager to make a difference in the EU’s climate future, so make sure to register to join us now!
Event reportThe event took place Wednesday 22 September 2021 at 12:00-14:00 EEST. It was held online due to the COVID-19 restrictions in force at the time in Finland, and the webinar was administered by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs on the Microsoft Teams platform. The aim of the debate was to discuss the climate policy of the European Union, particularly focusing on its effectiveness, its potential to facilitate a just transition, and its global implications. In the recent years, the EU has pushed climate neutrality at the top of its agenda and has also aimed to take a globally leading role in climate action. Ambitious goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and climate neutrality have been set in the European Climate Law, and the European Green Deal provides a roadmap for their implementation. The EU has also emphasized the importance of just transition, with the aim of ensuring that process towards climate neutrality will not disproportionately harm any region or group of people. However, the achievement of the ambitious objectives is far from certain, and the adoption of practical measures to that end is at the responsibility of individual member states. In addition, the EU’s climate actions are likely to have implications also globally, with the potential of causing unintended harmful impacts. The discussion was moderated by Senior Research Fellow Emma Hakala from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. The panel speakers were Alviina Alametsä, Member of the European Parliament; climate activist Ellen Ojala and Ismo Ulvila, Head of Communication from the European Commission Representation in Finland. Emma Hakala started the webinar with a brief introduction to the EU’s climate policies in a nutshell. Her presentation gave an overview of the main targets of the EU’s climate policy, European Climate Law, the “Fit for 55” package, the European Green Deal as well as the Just Transition Mechanism. After the presentation, Hakala began the panel discussion by asking about the panelists’ optimism with regard to the potential of the EU to achieve its climate policy goals. Here, their views were varied. Alviina Alametsä and Ellen Ojala pointed out the vast amount of work needed to implement the policies, and Ojala in particular regretted the discrepancy between the stated goals and actual policy choices made. Ismo Ulvila was more optimistic, citing the vast progress made in terms of climate policy over the past decade and the various mechanisms through which the EU has aimed to make its commitments more binding. The panelists also considered the dilemma of fitting the emissions reductions targets together with the EU’s economic growth agenda. Through the interactive platform Slido the audience also had a chance to vote whether they considered it possible to achieve economic growth without growing natural resource. 40% of the respondents replied Yes, 40% No and 20% reported they did not know. The panel also discussed the fairness of the low-carbon transition, and in particular the extent to which voices of different groups are being heard in the policy-making. According to Ms. Ojala, there currently are very few ways for climate activists to engage with policy-makers with regard to climate issues, let alone ensure that their views are actually being taken into account. Ms. Alametsä agreed, pointing out also that young people may justifiably feel underrepresented in the discussion. For instance, there are not many MEPs who are under the age of 30, and many of the other politicians do not necessarily understand the urgency of the threat of climate change for the younger generation, who see the question as existential for their future. Mr. Ulvila, on the other hand, pointed out that there are several EU-level initiatives that aim to target young people specifically. According to him, the themes of fairness and inclusivity have also been a crucially important element of the European Green Deal, which also includes the Just Transition Mechanism. Finally, Dr. Hakala asked the panel about the global implications of the EU’s climate policy. Ms. Alametsä argued that it is important to extend the idea of just transition to the rest of the world beyond the borders of the EU. For instance, the EU can provide financing to aid transition around the world. In addition, it should increasingly include environmental and social aspects into international trade agreements in order to ensure that these will contribute to both ecological and human wellbeing. According to Mr. Ulvila, the European Commission has already done this in previous trade agreements, demonstrating the potential impact that the Union can have also globally. Meanwhile, Ms. Ojala reminded the panel that considering the vast size of the global decarbonization challenge the level of international financing should still be considerably higher than at present.
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