Beyond Growth Conference Follow-up: A Blueprint for a Social and Green Deal

The European Parliament held on the 7th of December, a follow up to the Beyond Growth Conference titled #BeyondGrowth: Blueprint for a Social and Green Deal. The event aimed to address the challenges faced by the European Green Deal (EGD) and explore ways to move forward towards a more sustainable and socially inclusive future.

The event was organised by MEP Philippe Lamberts with the support of MEPs co-organisers of the Beyond Growth 2023 Conference (BGC) from 5 different political groups and non-attached and supported by a number of BGC partner organisations, including ECOLISE.

The speakers were:

Philippe Lamberts – MEP and Co-President (Greens/EFA), Beyond Growth Conference organiser
Éloi Laurent – Senior Economist at OFCE, Sciences Po Centre for Economic Research (Paris)
Marek Hudon – Co-President of the Belgian High Committee for a Just Transition
Judith Kirton-Darling – Deputy General Secretary of IndustriAll European Trade Union
Laura de Bonfils – Secretary General at Social Platform
Agata Meysner – Director at Generation Climate Europe

Some key highlights from the panel discussion can be found below: 

  1. Political Landscape: The panel commented on the possibility of a right-wing coalition in the European Union for the first time in history. The panel highlight concerns on the lower voter turnout among progressive individuals, and particularly the youth, as young people are twice as likely to abstain from voting. Furthermore, the panel discussed the emergence of anti-ecological populist ideas, rooted in false narratives, showing that Europeans care not only for identity and migration politics but also critical issues such as fighting poverty, exclusion, and environmental protection. For instance, The Gilets Jaunes movement arised from a nuanced interplay of social and environmental issues, rather than being anti-climate pointing at the lack of a social dimension of green policies. The panel highlighted the movement’s belief that addressing climate change should be a top priority, surpassing that surpassing that of the average French population.
  2. Beyond Growth in EU Institutions: A Social Imperative. The panel underlined the urgent need to embed “Beyond Growth” principles in EU institutions by  adding an equity dimension to the European Green Deal (EGD). This included following a rights-based approach narrative shaped by civil society (cf. Key demand two: Right to have a choice to live sustainably), recognising the right for things like sustainable mobility, employment security, collective bargaining, worker participation, clean energy, and a just transition. Furthermore, it meant to embed wellbeing dimensions into socio-ecological policies through the use of socio-ecological matrix, social impact assessments, mainstreaming simultaneous investments in both social and environmental transitions and embedding the European Pillars of Social Rights to address food insecurity, energy poverty and social inequality… (cf. Principle 20 and Key demand one: Support Community-Led Initiatives as laboratories for transformative social innovation and Key demand three: harnessing the power of community for a strong localised European Green Deal).
  3. Transformative Pathways: Civil society engagement. The panel called for the establishment of EU wide Citizen forums where Community-led initiatives, workers and civil society to participate in decision making processes (also in EU institutions) to implement the just transition (cf. Key demand four on Meaningful public participation and lively democracies). This was prototyped already in the Conference on the Future of Europe, but there is a need to go beyond citizen panels, tackling the democratic deficit which is often linked to civil dialogue. Collective intelligence and creativity were seen as crucial in the implementation of a just transition, and called for a proactive approach in anticipating and managing change (eg. a lack of skills stems from a lack of social imagination and lack of planning).
  4. Transformative Pathways: Policy coherence. The panel highlighted the need for new governance structures that enable policy coherence, which break policy silos (eg. addressing the trade-offs between the green and digital transitions) and exploring how a socio-ecological economic system beyond growth looks like. This called for the need to move away from toxic innovations and radical transformation of organisations (eg.  industry 5.0).
  5. Transformative Pathways: Fiscal Rules. Beyond Growth also means going against austerity, to secure the funding for the socio-ecological transition, allowing people to respond to the crisis (cf. Keynes) and ensure the levels of investment for the green transition are not delayed (cf. Yamina Sahebes on energy equity). Financing needs to be targeted to socio-ecological measures, such as using fossil fuel subsidies to finance housing retrofitting (cf. Key demand five: financing and resourcing community led initiatives).
  6. Narratives for Change: the costs of non-transition and transitioning towards sufficiency of secure, well-paid and sustainable jobs (cf. Private Sufficiency, Public Luxury). To drive the socio-ecological transition, the panel called for narratives that communicate the transition benefits and spell out clearly the cost of non-transition, such as the health issues arising from the non-transition (Key demand seven: from extraction and infinite growth towards care and wellbeing). The panel pointed at the need for a green transition, where a lack of proper tools to implement it equitably,  leads to the responsibility and costs falling on workers. This requires participatory debates with local levels and membership on the ground (European Trade Union Institute). Furthermore, the panel discussed the irrationality of the current dynamics of the economic system (cf. Hudson).
  7. Narratives for Hopeful visions for the future: Generation Climate Europe captured a new vision of prosperity, providing a safe and just space within planetary boundaries where everyone can thrive in their manifesto, including 24 proposals for 2024 with demands for a planet friendly, youth inclusive and future proof Europe. Some demands are the recognition of future generations’ rights, lowering the voting age to 16, the establishment of a EU Commissioner for future citizens, universal basic services, the acknowledgement that structural social inequalities are at the core of our economic system and the climate crisis, and thus, the need to fight against extreme affluence (cf. Key demand six: Imagine the possibilities, from what is to what if).

In a world grappling with polycrises, the panel discussion served as a catalyst for envisioning more hopeful  and empowering visions for the future, emphasising the need to include the social dimensions of the European Green Deal, calling for civil society engagement, policy coherence, sensible fiscal policy, and taking into account the costs of non-transition. To learn more about collective action driven by community-led initiatives in the context of the European Green Deal, you can read more on ECOLISE’s  main policy event, which launched the Time for Collective Action Manifesto, a visual summary is also available here.

You can read ECOLISE’s positioning towards the panel discussion on a LinkedIn post here.

Nina Klein, ECOLISE: “What I miss in the narrative on the panel, is looking at citizens, not as somebody that needs to be protected and looked after, but actually seeing citizens as agents of change. Because collective action in cooperatives, in energy cooperatives, actually is what made the difference already now. It is not state energy policies, but its collective action by cooperatives and just giving this agency to citizens is for me essential and that is what is social.

Philippe Lamberts, Greens EFA & Event moderator

I’d just like to react to that before I give back the floor to the panel. Often at times I get the question “how can we still hope”. How can we still hope because indeed, if we are in the mindset of individualism, driven by the neoliberal ideology. Of course, me alone facing these immense challenges, I’m powerless. I do believe that the only chance we have is in collective intelligence. I don’t believe in an advanced sort of avant-garde who knows better than the people what is good for the people. I don’t believe in that, absolutely not. I believe there is only the collective mobilization of intelligence and creativity that can really find the way. So, I very much echo what you (Nina) said.

From 1:55:26 in the video:

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