“Europe is facing a climate conflict”

Today, Bercy is hosting the France-Ukraine summit “for the stability and reconstruction of Ukraine”. To read the stakes of this peak, you need to wear two different glasses.

First, it allows us to decipher the stakes of the Putin regime’s horrific war against a neighboring nation that denies its sovereignty, violates its territorial integrity, and violates its most fundamental rights.

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Second, it allows us to see what this conflict already allows us to predict: the reality of a world in geopolitical hypertonia will make the ecological transition even more difficult, and vice versa.

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This editorial comes to conclude my series of publications at the end of each round of Sustainable Development Meetings organized by the Open Diplomacy Institute in media partnership with JDD.

This article does not want to ignore the first point. This can be the subject of long developments. But it is wise to know what this summit will deliver in the short to medium term, so that the freedom of the Ukrainian people can overcome Putin’s predatory appetites… and I dedicate this series to the geopolitical vision that we can take on the challenges. transition..

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On Friday, December 9, the Sustainable Development Summit ended in Berlin. One thing I conclude: economists have well documented the price-wage loop that the return of inflation brings back to our fond memories. However, the already researched but over-discussed “climate-conflict” ring has not become as important a topic of public debate as it should be.

The climate-conflict loop is the worst closed circle

To understand the scale of the problem, consider that half of humanity already lives under the pressure of climate change.

For us Europeans, this leads to three main types of risk according to the IPCC. First, water and food shortages: very low-yielding crops, less productive fisheries… Second, it takes a heavy toll on our well-being, starting with our health: the development of new infectious diseases, unbearable heat waves… And finally, the massive destruction of our infrastructure, mainly due to severe flooding. a degradation.

I’m only talking here about events affecting the human species, but the disruption of marine and terrestrial ecosystems – of course – will have consequences for us as well.

Let us immediately emphasize that these events will always be more serious for the most vulnerable: with the richest 10% emitting ten times more greenhouse gases than the poorest 10%, the real social tension will arise from the challenge of adapting to climate change.

Managing these social tensions will probably be more difficult than the inflationary consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Remember that this is “just 7%” of prices in France (10.6% on average in the euro area and 10.7% in the OECD). And — if they do happen — the potential power outages will be painful.

Real social tensions will arise from the challenge of adapting to climate change

But this situation will not be commensurate with the costs of adapting to climate change: managing food security, combating water stress, protecting our infrastructures, especially our education, health and transport systems and energy systems, or supporting the adaptation of whole populations.

In comparison, one can imagine how dangerous a failed transition is for the country’s stability. But so is international stability. The very intense negotiations on “loss and damage” at the recent COP 27 Climate in Sharm el-Sheikh show how developed economies must manage their “environmental debt” with the most vulnerable countries to prevent further deterioration of relations.international. The same applies to the ongoing negotiations on funding for biodiversity conservation and restoration under COP 15 Biodiversity in Montreal.

This point of tension over the offsetting financing of major polluters against least developed countries is probably the easiest to imagine. But this is one point among others in a galaxy of diplomatic tensions. They feed abundantly on the rhetoric of authoritarian regimes – Russia and China – which shared the common goal of subverting the international order based on fundamental rights in 1945.

In the late 1990s, as soon as the Primakov doctrine was confirmed, Russia called on China to promote a new world order within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in which democratic values ​​would be removed from the foundations of multilateralism. During the COP, the Sino-Russian rhetoric of conveying the Europeans’ environmental ambitions for a form of green neocolonialism hits the bull’s eye.

This is how we understand the climate-conflict cycle: if we miss the ecological transition, it will exacerbate internal and international conflicts; and the greater the social and diplomatic tension, the more likely the environmental transition will be.

Towards an ecology of power

The European Union, which previously trained us on a strange acronym, has surprisingly equipped itself with a well-named plan: “Reinvigorate the European Union … which calls for the need to protect both the European electricity system in a dramatic economic situation and the life of Ukraine. The importance of a strong Europe to face the global and structural challenges we know together.

Faced with the risk of a climate-conflict loop, this well-named plan invites us to continue thinking: about power in the service of transition; and about the transition to the service of the authorities.

European power is absolutely necessary to lead a successful transition. The costs of coordination are very high when Europe constantly risks dividing itself on fundamental issues.

There is so much evidence in the history of the European Union that Jean Monnet’s aphorism “Europe will be built in crises” has become a kind of mantra to ward off the fate of disintegration. Do we need to remember how the crisis in the eurozone less than a decade ago failed to correct the main result of the European construction, which is so useful to us today, to face inflation, the competitive shock it created? and the energy supply problem: the Euro?

Europe’s strength lies primarily in its single market. It is true, and it will be necessary to influence the definition of international standards that structure the ecological and social transition, because geo-economic struggles in the field of law are numerous and dangerous.

Model behavior is the best engine for engaging our partners in complex negotiations

But Europe’s strength is primarily to build effective and unified networks on a continental scale. This is the whole logic of the founding peers: if they were pacifists who wanted to avoid war among Europeans, Monnet’s method and Schumann’s vision could still guide us to break the climate-conflict cycle. To avoid what is at the heart of the absurd situation we find ourselves in today, it is important to have a common energy policy: national energy policies that are completely independent of each other when our economic interdependence is crucial and solidarity energy is high. It is the heart of the European treaties. In the short term, this should be achieved through two elements: the creation of a common energy supply mechanism, benefiting from the weight of the European economy; and on the other hand, the design of a second recovery plan dedicated to the main networks through which the Union passes and allows to ensure its sovereignty.

Moreover, for Europe, the transition will also be in the service of power. The more ambitious, fast and fair our ecological transition is, the more we will demonstrate to our partners in the “global south” that our vision of sustainable development is not a new model of domination. This will sometimes be necessary to manage all the conflicts that arise as a result of climate disturbances.

How can we ask our partners in India, Indonesia or South Africa to absorb the financial and technical expertise we offer if our own carbon trajectory is not resolutely directed towards the target of 2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita and year?

Setting an example is the best motivator for engaging our partners in complex negotiations. Admittedly, per capita emissions in India are still less than 2 tons of CO2 equivalent…but for a country of 1.4 billion people, it is growing rapidly. Today, China, with the same demographic weight, emits four times more than India, which has a dramatic effect on the acceleration of climate change.

Let us now represent European power as a peace-loving force capable of building lasting peace by putting ecology and social justice at the center of its global ambition. It is enough to break from the history shaped by the logic of domination… this predatory ambition that today drives Russian neo-imperialism, which uses our history against us and our sustainable development policy. A new vision of Europe can be formed if we Europeans can quickly stop the oligarchy attacking the freedom of our neighbors, if we can soon become partners and members of the Union.

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