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Editor’s note: solidarity in clean tech production

A potential (re)invention of the EU must include a focus on clean tech solidarity to demonstrate the bloc’s energy transition’s ability to create jobs and opportunities © AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
A potential (re)invention of the EU must include a focus on clean tech solidarity to demonstrate the bloc’s energy transition’s ability to create jobs and opportunities © AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

Today is Europe Day. For those not familiar with the finer points of the EU, it is a day’s holiday to celebrate peace and unity, marking the anniversary of the 1950 Schuman declaration, which declared a united Europe would essentially end any prospect of war.

Central to the speech by French foreign minister Robert Schuman was the pooling of coal and steel production through the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community. “Solidarity in production … will make it plain any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible,” said Schuman. “The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all member countries with the basic elements of industrial production on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.”

More than 70 years later, the idea of peace is somewhat questionable, with war on Europe’s doorstep in Ukraine and an increasingly belligerent Vladimir Putin warning Europe about the “combat readiness” of his troops. But there is also growing hostility within the EU’s borders as the political debate splinters and far-right ideas rise to the fore. 

One dividing issue has become climate change and how the crisis should be handled. Research by the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank shows people across the EU believe politicians have handled the climate crisis poorly and see the union’s climate policies as particularly divisive. When asked about a hypothetical trade-off between pursuing climate ambitions and avoiding the rise of energy bills, most people backed measures to keep bills, rather than emissions, low.

The upcoming elections do not need to be the beginning of the end of Schuman’s ideas, suggests the research, concluding while “the crisis of European democracy — and the prospect of a far-right surge — are real”, mainstream politicians can regain the upper hand by “making a new geopolitical case for Europe, which does not attempt to mobilise people out of solidarity with Ukraine — but rather out of a concern for European sovereignty and security”. 

“Pro-Europeans should argue that we are in a moment in which if the EU did not exist, it would need to be invented,” says the research. Europe has never become truly economically unified, and the recently agreed EU industrial strategy has been roundly criticised for falling short of what is needed, in particular in terms of joined-up thinking and clean tech leadership in the face of competition from China and the US’s Inflation Reduction Act.

As various groups have suggested in some way or another, it would seem such a (re)invention of the EU must, in line with Schuman’s coal and steel thinking, include a focus on clean tech solidarity to demonstrate the transition’s ability to create jobs and opportunities and be just and fair, rather than being a reason for division and even anti-democratic violence, as seen this week against Green parliamentary candidates in Germany.   

Meanwhile, Alex reports on the overwhelming support by respondents to the European Commission’s consultation on the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation for the creation of a category specifically to address financial products with a transition focus. The outcome is of little surprise to industry experts. “This is sorely lacking in the SFDR framework and has caused fund managers difficulty where they want to launch funds with a transition strategy,” says Lorraine Johnston, a partner at law firm Ashurst.

John Crabb examines the lack of progress towards financing the Sustainable Development Goals, which face a $4tn annual investment gap, a 50 per cent increase on pre-pandemic estimates of the likely deficit, and how public and private sector support is needed to try to turn this around. 

Finally, we dive into a report by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment think-tank, which suggests including heating and road transport fuels in the UK’s Emissions Trading Scheme could reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter, and analysis by S&P Global Ratings highlighting the challenge for businesses in assessing the likely costs of climate litigation as cases increase.

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is the editor of Sustainable Views 

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