Time for a just tran­si­tion

The New European - - Agenda -

BRUS­SELS: While cen­tral Paris was once again the scene of vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions last week­end be­tween the po­lice and pro­tes­tors an­gry at ris­ing fuel costs, in Brus­sels tens of thou­sands of peo­ple took to the streets de­mand­ing more am­bi­tious ac­tion against cli­mate change.

The two protests ap­pear very dif­fer­ent, but for Dirk Hole­mans they are two sides of the same coin. Writ­ing in Dutch-lan­guage mag­a­zine Knack, he said that the fury un­leashed by small rises in fuel duty – billed as a way of re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions – shows that “cli­mate pol­icy must be so­cial, or else it won’t hap­pen at all”.

Hole­mans pro­posed a vi­sion for trans­form­ing car­bon in­ten­sive sec­tors while also help­ing the poor­est mem­bers of so­ci­ety. “A just tran­si­tion is about more than just re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions or trans­form­ing the econ­omy,” he said. “The key ques­tion is how we can get every­one in­volved.” It means an in­vest­ment pro­gramme for en­ergy ef­fi­cient homes, se­cur­ing fresh and healthy food and creat­ing new jobs in green in­dus­tries.

But suc­cess re­quires a “broad coali­tion in which very dif­fer­ent so­cial groups make a clear choice”, Hole­mans added. “You will only get that if it’s backed up by a nar­ra­tive of global eman­ci­pa­tion.” That’s not the same thing as a glib de­sire to elim­i­nate so­cial con­flict. “It’s a tough fight against the lead­ers and lobby groups who con­tinue to swear by ways of pro­duc­ing and con­sum­ing that are de­stroy­ing the planet.”

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