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A new European approach key to global climate action

Climate change experts presented five key proposals for the fight against climate change  at the 2013  Dahrendorf Symposium (14-15 November). 

Craig Calhoun discussionTyphoon Haiyan’s devastating impact leant even greater urgency to the past week’s UN Climate Change summit in Warsaw. The ripple effect was also felt at the 2013 Dahrendorf Symposium. Scholars, policy makers, and practitioners discussed climate change as not only an environmental problem but one with developmental, economic, social and legal dimensions which must be addressed. 

Europe is uniquely positioned to take action in the international fight against climate change. During the Symposium, five expert working groups identified key challenges to be overcome if Europe is to step into a leading role:

1. Europe needs to speak with one voice in climate negotiations

Currently, a cacophony of European approaches that cater to varied national and special interests dominate international negotiations. Europe is in danger of losing its voice and influence.  To counteract this, we recommend that European governments jointly reverse the short-sighted course of uncoordinated policies and policy changes and seek to regain common ground.”  – Helmut K. Anheier, Co-Chair of the Working Group on Europe and the World and Dean and Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School of Governance and Arne Westad, Co-Chair and Director of LSE IDEAS and Professor of International History, LSE.

2. A shared European vision in energy governance is essential

“Energy sector modernisation in Europe still suffers from a lack of shared vision on local, national and supra-national levels. Particularly the process of grid expansion requires governance coordination and legitimacy oversight.  Another hindrance in the debate about energy efficiency is the artificially stated conflict between job creation and decarbonisation. Developing a common vision requires more open communication and learning from each other’s best practices. “ – Claudia Kemfert, Co-Chair of the Working Group on Governance and Policy Aspects of Climate Change, Professor of Energy Economics and Sustainability at the Hertie School and Head, Department of Energy, Transportation, Environment, German Institute of Economic Research (DIW) and Karsten Neuhoff, Co-Chair and Professor, Technical University Berlin; Head, Department Climate Policy, DIW.

3. Climate Justice cannot be an afterthought 

“We cannot solve climate crises without appreciating the way our actions impact on the most vulnerable and on future generations. Europe has a responsibility to spearhead a just response to climate crises that goes beyond equal distribution of benefits and burdens. We must empower local communities to craft their own path towards sustainable development and to manage their own unique climate risks. Climate justice also requires a radical shift in current legal paradigms and the recognition of a binding legal obligation towards future generations.” Conor Gearty, Chair of the Working Group on the Social Legal Aspects of Climate Change and Director of LSE's Institute of Public Affairs and Professor of Human Rights Law in the LSE Law Department.

4. Effective Post-2020 Targets and Reform of the EU ETS

“The European Union must make a unilateral commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990, and set a target for decarbonising the power sector by 2030, taking into account differences between Member States. The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) must be reformed by introducing a transparent, price-based mechanism through which allowances are automatically withdrawn and injected. The price trigger would not be an absolute price level but rather a price trend over a past period. Under a rules-based supply management mechanism companies will anticipate the potential injection and withdrawal of allowances, selling and buying allowances, with the effect that the need for withdrawal and injection is minimized.” - Luca Taschini, Chair of the Working Group on Economics and Climate Change and Research Fellow at the LSE Grantham Research Institute.

5. Southern European countries could play an important role in fighting climate change

“We see considerable potential in combining investments in required energy infrastructure with a growth agenda for investment in Southern European countries whose economies have been significantly weakened during the financial crisis. We call for the establishment of public investment schemes in those European countries hit hardest by the financial and sovereign debt crisis. Such an agenda can not only foster growth, but also solidarity between European citizens: climate change is about sharing benefits rather than sharing burdens.” – Felix Creutzig, Chair of the Working Group on Infrastructure and Climate Change and principal investigator of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) Land Use, Infrastructures, and Transport Group.    

The Dahrendorf Symposium featured contributions by EU Commissioners Connie Hedegaard and Günther Oettinger, German politicians Cem Özdemir and Norbert Röttgen, Lord William Wallace of Saltaire, as well as Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the MCC, and Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel of UNEP.

More information on the policy recommendations can be found on the Dahrendorf Symposium Website. Updates regarding forthcoming publications will also be posted on the website.Get up to speed on what was being said on twitter: @Dahrendorf_Sym / #DSym2013

The Dahrendorf Symposium is a joint initiative of the Hertie School of Governance, London School of Economics and Political Science and Stiftung Mercator. Founded in 2011 in the spirit of Lord Ralf Dahrendorf, it aims to challenge entrenched patterns of thought and argument on the future of Europe and to add fresh impetus to the European debate.

Press contact:

Regine Kreitz, Head of Communications, Hertie School of Governance,  Phone:

+49 -030-259 219 113

Fax: +49 -030-259 219 444, e-mail: press@dahrendorf-symposium.eu

15 November 2013 (updated 18 November 2013)