Climate Debate in Central Europe

The countries of Central Europe are rarely in the spotlight when it comes to the climate debate, but they are increasingly vocal and confident actors on the European stage. What exactly is their role in the climate debate? Are there similarities in how the representatives of Central European Countries understand and deal with climate crisis from the viewpoint of policy, finance, and diplomacy? These were the central questions for over 50 attendants who came together online for a workshop on October 19th and 20th, 2020.

by Michaela Valentová, Climate Investment Capacity 2030

Published: 09 November 2020

The workshop launched with a keynote by Matthew Agarwala from the Unviersity of Cambridge, who focused mainly on the need to reimagine a finance system to protect the biosphere. More specifically, it set forth the challenge of creating a different set of metrics through which to view the world. Two panels followed with, among others, the Working Group Vice-chair, prof. Diana Ürge-Vorsatz of Central European University, First secretary of the British Embassy in Prague, Lucy Maizels, and the president of the Hungarian environmental association Clean Air Action Group, András Lukács.

Prevailing scepticism in Central Europe

The participants agreed that the countries in the Central European region as clustered together with rather low willingness to act on climate issues, and mid-level potential for climate mitigation. This was reflected also in the language used to characterize the countries of the region as ‘persistently sceptical’ and ‘reluctant’, but it was also observed that the countries were ‘awakening’ to the need to take action.

More data and changing mindset

Two challenges emerged from the discussions about how to make progress in addressing climate change in both the areas of finance and diplomacy. The first has to do with science and data. There is currently a gap between what is considered ‘green’ investment and the actual scientific evidence verifying what does and does not impact positively and negatively on climate change. The EU taxonomy of sustainable activities represents an important step forward, but also opens the question on how it will be translated into practical steps at the level of policy measures and individual actors.

The second challenge had to do with the transformation of society and more specifically the transformation of mindset. In the Central European region, the economic interests tend to be perceived in opposition to sustainability, instead of complementarity, synergy, and unavoidability. Clear communication of scientific knowledge and the ability to base political decisions on scientific evidence are absolutely key. As one of the attendants bluntly put it: “We need to be sure that those with the power to act are getting the message that ‘anything that is unsustainable will stop’. The only question is whether it happens by design or disaster.”

The workshop was co-organized by Michaela Valentová of the Czech Technical University in Prague, representing the Climate Investment Capacity 2030 Project and the New Ideas for Europeanization from Central Europe, Jean Monnet Center of Excellence. The event was also supported by S4D4C and its team member, Mitchell Young co-organized the event and chaired the session on “Climate Diplomacy, Science & Economic Growth”.

Please do not hesitate to contact Michaela Valentová, should you want to discuss more. You can download the full report from the workshop on the right of this blogpost.

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