Is racial justice the key to a Green New Deal for Europe?

Priscilla Ludosky, who started the nationwide Giles Jaunet movement with an online petition. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

In search of the best strategy, to push Europe towards a systemic green and just transformation, the question should be assessed: Does racial injustice explains why Europe has been legging behind on meaningful climate action now? Some connects this question to post colonial politics and suggest that racial injustice allows European companies and governments to treat the rest of the world as a dumpsite and endless source of natural resources. That can partly explain what is going on, focusing on the behavior of Europe in relation to the rest of the world. But does this explain why Europe is legging behind in its climate action? In my view, it does not. The following is not a comment on the importance and urgency of the racial justice debate Europe, but a thorough look at its strategic relationship to winning the climate fight in Europe.

Europe has been legging behind in the last decade, in its climate ambition. The recent heads of State Summit could hardly reach consensus on the EU level equivalent of the Nationally Determined Contributions ( NDCs) required to implement the Paris Agreement. This is in huge contrast with the fact that the EU Commission made climate its number one priority in 2019, and launched the European Green Deal ( which has so far been a vehicle for greenwashing and window dressing for the growth agenda). Bu this contrast also highlights two completely different, but equally plausible pathways towards climate action: the pathway through solidarity and climate justice, that leads to a green and just transformation; and the pathway through green growth, tech fixes, that will lead to autocratic, unequal, unjust and egoistic form of capitalism. I am convinced that – given the current political frontlines – the latter is not possible in Europe, at the moment. Divisive, autocratic politics is in stark contrast with progressive climate friendly politics – and this divide has just been growing as a result of the pandemic. But those who want to push for a green and just transformation must act fast.

I am convinced, that what derailed Europe´s climate ambition is the steady growth of inequality on the continent which was a result of the mainstreaming of neoliberal policies ( see more from Thomas Piketty on this) , and was deepened by the unfair construction of the single currency, euro ( see George Soros for more on this) ) and the uneven development after the accession of Eastern European countries. The combination of these led to the situation of today, where the income gap in Europe has grown so wide, that it created such different realities for Europeans in-country as well as across member states, that now it threatens the shared values and the common vision, and the trust. Meaningful climate action in Europe would require a common vision of a critical mass of citizens across the continent, solidarity and trust, because a green and just transformation and a sustainable and peaceful future will require, at the beginning, quite some sacrifice from all of us.

The question is, what can reestablish this trust and solidarity among Europeans, which could be the foundation for the green and just transformation? My answer is, meaningful action against inequality, both inside and among the member states would push Europe to raise its climate ambition and act on it.

And how does that relate to racial justice in Europe? In short: a lot. The working class is more diverse and colorful in Europe than the elite, yet those parties that try to win their votes – both left and right – use ´divide and rule ‘strategies. There is nothing more tragic to see then social democrats competing with the ultra right in excluding migrants, whilst trying to be true to their universal values of solidarity and inclusion. The ultra nationalists spread hate, discrimination, anti-science and anti climate action, and the idea that Europe should not take responsibility for any of the damage caused by European countries and corporations in other parts of the world. The progressive liberals practice another form of divisive, identity politics: demonization of the white working class as fascists.

Minimizing social inequality in Europe can best be done through making a Green New Deal for Europe happen (one version of it is available here, not to be confused with the European Green Deal, the official agenda of the van der Leyen Commission) . Real sustainable solutions would lead us to a fairer society, with progressive taxation, a real value for care work and real harmony for everyone with nature. The reform of the European welfare model to a social and ecological welfare model would lead to a healthier, equal and more harmonious relationship to nature.

Politics that unite across race and cultures behind the fight for climate justice would be needed, to tackle inequality, and guarantee a transformation that benefits the many. Europe has to account for the growing gap between the rich and the poor and has to address that as part of the recovery from the current crisis.

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