A successful and just decarbonisationRejuvenating our transatlantic partnership with the visiting US delegation
A delegation of trade unionists from the United States visited Das Progressive Zentrum for a roundtable encouraging the transatlantic dialogue and cooperation on a just transition.
A group of trade unionists from the United States came to Germany for a week of exchange on a just transition. Das Progressive Zentrum invited them to discuss issues regarding the coal exit in Germany and the United States from a civil society perspective. The delegation trip was funded on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment and was carried out by the Ecologic Institute US in cooperation with IFOK. You can find the key elements of the discussion summarized below.
The energy sector in transition
Both in the United States and Germany, energy sectors are in transition. While the transition in the US is driven primarily by market forces, the process in Germany is more a result of public policy. However, the consequences of climate change in terms of economic, social and environmental impacts are the same. This challenge creates an opportunity for transatlantic dialogue on how best practices and relevant processes can further a just transition. A just transition must create broad economic opportunities for all at the regional and macro-level. It needs to address individual challenges of the transformations such as professional training and the offsetting of environmental impacts. Unfortunately, achieving such a just transition multilaterally has become much harder in recent years.
The challenges facing multilateralism
The unsuccessful 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid continued the trend of aggravating climate diplomacy and international cooperation, which started with the US-withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Vulnerable international agreements are obstructed by countries pursuing narrow national interests. Further evidence for this unreliability was the recent attempt by the Trump administration to buy exclusive rights to the coronavirus vaccine. Such unilateral actions undermine attempts of necessary international solidarity during global crises such as the climate crisis or the corona-pandemic. It is clear that the Trump administration – once again – is turning out not to be a trustworthy partner in tackling these supranational challenges for humanity. Even more discouraging is how the current transatlantic rhetoric is tainted by distrust, fragmentation and even hostility. This is shown for instance by calling the EU a foe, encouraging the disintegration of the EU (Brexit), supporting anti-democratic leaders in Europe (Poland, Hungary) and simply rude language via Twitter-diplomacy – leaving very little space for any fruitful dialogue at all.
On the other hand, productive and encouraging initiatives like Fridays for Future, the Powering Past Coal Alliance or the US Climate Alliance have grown simultaneously. Not only in a bottom-up manner but also by coordinating across national boundaries. In doing so, they embrace new alliances to go beyond the conventional approaches of diplomacy. These developments provide alternative and necessary paths towards achieving a just transition and decarbonisation.
Barriers to fruitful international dialogue
Time to stop the demolition of the US-EU relations.
Despite all these challenges, the US and Europe are allies at many levels. Both share crucial strategic interests in addition to a mutual set of values. As transatlantic alliances are challenged multilaterally, other levels must maintain the bonds which serve common interests. This calls for states, cities, businesses, unions, scientists and citizens, to foster a multi-level transatlantic exchange on the many issues involved. Getting together to build a just transition can offer a new avenue for rejuvenating an honest transatlantic dialogue.
If you want to find out more about how Foreign Policy and a just transition are linked, have a look at our project and the Policy Brief.