The European Green Deal is the EU’s most ambitious policy framework yet. But it is enormously challenging in political and economic terms. Most of the issues involved go beyond our mental maps of territory and time, because they are inherently transnational and long-term, beyond familiar electoral cycles.
To avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to change many aspects of our economic system. This will require a decades-long transition that has to deliver justice for future generations. It also involves extra-territorial responsibilities for nation-states. For example, the German constitutional court has developed new legal principles about the responsibility of the German government for future generations of Germans and people outside Germany. That in turn raises major challenges for our systems of representative democracy, which rely on the principle that governments are elected to serve the interests of people who live within their national constituency right now.
This seminar considered the dimensions of justice involved in the climate transition and the challenges that they pose to democracy, particularly in Europe. Can the EU maintain democratic consent for this long and large-scale transition? Or will it get blamed for unpopular measures? Might authoritarian regimes deliver faster and better transitions to climate neutrality? Should the EU develop new methods of transnational governance – or go local instead, relying on local climate assemblies to design policies with democratic legitimacy?
Heather Grabbe, political scientist ranked highly among “the women who shape Brussels” by Politico. She has written recently on how climate change and technology are affecting the quality of democracy and economic and social justice. She was the director of the Open Society European Policy Institute from 2009 to 2022, and before that a senior advisor to then European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn.
Ivan Vejvoda, IWM Permanent Fellow, introduced the speaker and moderated the Q&A.
A recording of the livestream is available here: