European Brown Old Deal – Sinan Eden

§0. In December 2019, the European Commission delivered a Communication titled “The European Green Deal” to the European Parliament and other relevant councils and committees of the European state structure. In mid-January, the European Parliament voted for the adoption of the Communication, giving green light to the European Commission to pursue the plans described in the document.

The document is important because it sheds light to the existing consensus of European bourgeoisie. The document is important also because it delivers a calendar for the next couple of years.

Before we start, I’d like to underline that it is a communication document between a policy-maker and another policy-maker. It is not law. It is not public release. It is not a press conference. It is a politician addressing another politician. Two elements of the superstructure are having a conversation in public space. Here, the ‘public space’ is an important aspect. They are not talking to us, but they are talking in front of us; this changes the way things are expressed and formulated. But the ‘us’ in the previous sentence is misleading: they are also talking in front of the class they are representing. They are sending signals to each other, and indirectly to the public, and consequently to the ruling class. This is the right order of the target audiences. The message is: “Here is what we will tell each other when the public is looking at us. Right?” Now, they will be receiving individual feedback from the lobbyists, adjusting and correcting the details.

All of the above may seem obvious to people familiar with the state apparatus. But I preferred to highlight its political character: The public is not supposed to understand it; the public is not expected to agree with it; the public is supposed to not revolt against it, that’s all. On the other hand, it must implicitly refer to the discussions going on within the ruling class, and give signals to one direction or another. It serves as a wrap-up of an ongoing complex conversation.

§1. General Idea: The European Green Deal “is a new growth strategy” that aims at “turning an urgent challenge into a unique opportunity”.

Its chapters are sectorial. After an introduction, it immediately goes to list energy, industry, buildings, transport, agriculture and waste as sub-chapters; then moves on to policies like finance, budgeting, research and education. It ends with EU’s role “as a global leader”. The entire document is structured technically rather than politically and it tells a technocratic story. It has no reference to social policy, job creation, or global justice. It doesn’t even mention fossil-free politics (expelling fossil fuel corporations out of the negotiation tables and out of policy).

Politically speaking, the European Green Deal is not a New Deal. Because it’s the old deal.

Scientifically speaking, the European Green Deal is not Green either. It aims at “no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050” and aims at “reductions target for 2030 to at least 50% and towards 55% compared with 1990 levels”. This is the policy line we have been fighting against, as it guarantees a temperature increase of 3ºC. In fact, the European Commission not only does not commit to scientifically sound emission cuts, it openly assures the industry that it won’t disturb them: “It takes 25 years to transform an industrial sector and all the value chains” it says, outright rejecting the 2030 carbon neutrality demands of the social movements.

Furthermore, it declares that “the EU will continue to ensure that the Paris Agreement remains the indispensable multilateral framework for tackling climate change”, approving the non-binding character of the current climate negotiations. (The Commission could have been critical of the Paris Agreement and suggest a world-wide Kyoto protocol, for instance.)

Put simply: this is the European Brown Old Deal that has been leading us to a climate chaos.

§2. Agreement: Before entering into the document’s details, I would like to recognize the following: “Sustainability should be further embedded into the corporate governance framework, as many companies still focus too much on short-term financial performance compared to their long-term development and sustainability aspects.”

I would like to show my agreement with the word “companies” in this sentence, as the Commission could have used other, more vague terms to describe them such as business, economic actors, etc.

I disagree with everything else: It’s not “should”, it’s “must”. There is nothing to “further” embed as nothing was embedded so far. There is no “corporate governance framework” that the Commission can control. It’s not “many companies”, it’s just “companies”. It’s not “still”, it’s “as always”. It’s not “too much”, it’s “the necessary amount determined by the law of the tendency of the rate of profits to fall”. It’s not “financial performance”, it’s “their entire (financial, economic, political and social) performance” as part of the ruling class. It’s not “their long-term development aspect” that we worry about, it’s “the medium-term survival aspect of the human civilization”.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that I strongly agree with the wording ‘companies’ in the third sentence of the first paragraph of page seventeen of the document.

There, I gave credit for a common agreement point.

§3. The spirit: In order to “be at the forefront of coordinating international efforts towards building a coherent financial system that supports sustainable solutions”, the Commission advises “a possible extension of European emissions trading to new sectors”, “carbon pricing throughout the economy” and “working with global partners to develop international carbon markets”. Commodification of the entire world climate squirts from all over the text.

The only problem with this proposition is that it’s business-as-usual. No one needs a “deal” to continue doing what they have been doing. Besides being based on wishful thinking rather than a scientific approach on actual emissions, it is also a tested and failed policy strategy. (Did I already mentioned that this was not a New deal?)

§4. The policies: Every mention of any word slightly resembling a climate justice perspective is “balanced” by paragraphs of neoliberal counter-statements.

§4.1. While “delivering additional reductions in emissions … will require massive public investment” on page 2, page 22 clarifies that “the Commission will also support the commitment made by national public financial resources to improve the investment climate and achieve contributions from the private sector. This work will need to be accompanied by opportunities to de-risk investments in sustainable development through tools such as funding guarantees and blended financing.” In other words, that massive public investment would go to the private sector either directly through funding or indirectly through Public Private Partnerships.

§4.2. While “circular design of all products based on a common methodology and principles” will “prioritise reducing and reusing materials before recycling them”, thereby strengthening “extended producer responsibility” with a particular focus on “textiles, construction, electronics and plastics” (page 8); the next page clarifies us that we are talking about “a regulatory framework for biodegradable and bio-based plastics” and “measures to encourage businesses to offer … reusable, durable and repairable products”. The three dots in the last quote, however, is “measures to encourage businesses to offer, and to allow consumers to choose, reusable, durable and repairable products” (my emphasis) and that’s where the twist starts because then an entire page is dedicated to how the responsibility will be transferred on the citizens through massive buy-green programs.

§4.3. In fact, read this: “50 million consumers struggle to keep their homes adequately warm.” One day you wake up at home. It’s cold. You cannot afford to turn on the heating. You realize you caught cold at night. You have fever. Now you are consumer struggling with a fever. Then maybe you go to the hospital. You are thus a consumer struggling with a poor public healthcare system. Then you call a friend to bring you soup. Pardon me, let me correct that: Then you call another consumer to bring you soup… Then that other consumer can bring you soup so you the consumer can struggle with your fever with the help of a warm commodity in liquid form, I guess.

Who the hell would refer to a person at home struggling to get warm as a “consumer”? The answer is the European Green Deal.

§4.4. Public transport makes into the scene after an Oxford comma: “A combination of measures should address emissions, urban congestion, and improved public transport.” Anyone who ever wrote an article knows what all these commas serve for: to dilute the importance of each word separated by the commas. This is the only appearance of public transport as a thing, with no follow-up anywhere, and it is indeed in the last paragraph of the sub-chapter on transport, which starts as follows: “The price of transport must reflect the impact it has on the environment and on health. Fossil-fuel subsidies should end (When?) and … the Commission will look closely at the current tax exemptions including for aviation and maritime fuels. (Will it do something after ‘looking closely’?)” Although the Commission is crystal clear that we the people must pay for their deal, it is also cautious of the Yellow Vests movement: “Recent political events show that game-changing policies only work if citizens are fully involved in designing them.” It tells the European governments to not mess it up next time and make the people pay with their consent.

§5. Next steps: The Communication further mentions a few deadlines for new policy documents which would be more concrete than the general outlines of the first document. Many of its deadlines are so tight that it’s clear that most of the voting rituals are just bureaucracy.

§5.1. Perhaps the most important piece of legislation we (as the European climate justice movement) must pay attention to is the European ‘Climate Law’ that the Commission will propose by March 2020. This would transform the Communication into law. It will be bad. But it may be worse than you think.

§5.2. Also “in March 2020, the Commission will adopt an EU industrial strategy to address the twin challenge of the green and the digital transformation”. The Commission will further “present a Biodiversity Strategy by March 2020” and mentions that the “2020 United Nations Ocean Conference in Portugal will be an opportunity” too. There are many more dates in the document , stretching towards 2021.

§5.4. There is one interesting aspect though. The European Green Deal wants a “rapid phasing out of coal and decarbonising gas” (whatever fantasy decarbonising gas could refer to). It says the Commission “will propose a Just Transition Mechanism” which “will also strive to protect the citizens and workers most vulnerable to the transition, providing access to re-skilling programmes, jobs in new economic sectors, or energy-efficient housing.” As a first step, the Commission prepared aProposal for a regulation establishing the Just Transition Fund”, a 40+ page document published a couple of weeks ago, which will have to be the topic of a separate article.

§6. Summing up, the European Green Deal is definitely European. But it’s not Green,. And it doesn’t even pretend to be New. More importantly, it’s not a Deal. It’s a European Green More-Of-The-Same. It’s a European Green Chitchat. It’s a European Green By-The-Way. It’s a European Green Oh-,-About-That. It’s a European Green No-Big-Deal.

It’s yet another sheet of paper circulating in the lobbies and news agencies. European politicians are still acting like there is no climate crisis.

From a climate justice movement perspective, we may as well act like they did absolutely nothing. The European Green Deal process will be a convoluted series of complex diplomatic conversations on whether we should drive over the cliff with a speed of 100 km/h or 101 km/h .

One thought on “European Brown Old Deal – Sinan Eden

  1. Obrigada Sinan pela análise de um documento que muito poucos se dão ao trabalho de ler, muito menos analisar!

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