FEPS together with the Foundation Max van der Stoel in the Netherlands (FMS) has initiated a research project to extend its work further on climate justice.

Currently, European climate policies mainly focus on the environmental issue and consist of multiple incoherencies. There is considerable debate about what works and what goes against the protection of not only the environment but also of people’s rights. What should be incorporated in these kinds of policies and what should they look like?

Climate change does not stop at borders, yet when it comes to climate policies within the European Union, questions of social justice are rarely prioritised. Perspectives of Africans, who are most vulnerable to the climate crisis despite contributing very little to global emissions, are additionally not sufficiently taken into account.

The type of questions we will be looking into will be; how do our African neighbours see both Dutch and European climate policies impacting African countries at large? How can European countries make effective policies to reduce disproportionate effects of climate change? And how can we collectively ensure those policies to be fair and align with the priorities of African countries?

With this research we will develop policy recommendations for better European climate policies which do take different African perspectives into account.

The project aims to gather opinions and experiences about current EU climate policies, their global effects and ways they can be better enhanced. It will feature components of desk research, field research (covid depending) and meetings with experts from stakeholders across the African continent as well as Europe. The project will result in a publication due out in the first quarter of 2021.

The Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), Renner Institut and Austrian Chamber of labour (AK) have begun a research project entitled “A fiscally sustainable public investment initiative in Europe to prevent climate collapse”. The research aims to pursue three objectives:

1. Are the planned measures laid out in the European Commission’s Green Deal roadmap enough to meet the Paris targets?
2. Are publicly funded climate infrastructure investment initiatives fiscally sustainable?
3. What is the revenue potential of a European wealth tax to fund climate action?

The first part of the project will analyse the Commission’s 2050 and EGD roadmap and assess whether the outlined measures represent a plausible strategy to meet the key Paris Agreement target. This will yield a comparison of the roadmap with the requirements suggested by the scientific evidence (as represented, for instance, by the IPCC reports). The main question for such a comparison will be: What is the nature (what kind of action is needed, what are the likely consequences of inaction) and scale of the problem? Does the roadmap convincingly identify (which sectors, which technologies) and quantify the necessary investment requirements?

This next policy paper will be published over summer 2020 and the wider research will be finalised in 2021.

Europe is confronted with an unprecedented global health crisis. It is already clear that the human and economic cost of this COVID-19 outbreak will be massive. European institutions as well as some member states have promptly put forward some measures that clearly signal the need of a strong public-led strategy for a fast recovery of the European people and economy. 

In this moment, policy-making requires support and ideas to design further responses that can meet the scale of the problem. FEPS contributes to this reflection with policy ideas, analysis of the different proposals and open reflections with the new series of FEPS COVID Response Papers and the FEPS COVID Response Webinar, which you can find below.

FEPS COVID Response Papers

#7 FEPS COVID Response Paper: The future of European Migration and Asylum Policy Post COVID19By Angeliki Dimitraidi
Five years on from the refugee ‘crisis’ of 2015 and the European Agenda on Migration, the EU is still lacking a common migration and asylum policy. The European Commission has now announced the release of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum for September 2020. Although intended for earlier, COVID-19 has both delayed the New Pact and proved a game changer for migration and asylum policy. The New Pact must not only offer mandatory solidarity to frontline states but also rethink Europe’s approach to migration and asylum, while guaranteeing and prioritising access to territory and protection for those in need.

#6 FEPS COVID Response Paper: Cities against the pandemic. By Iván Tosics
In times of major crises such the one we are facing right now, strong and coordinated interventions are needed at the central and the local levels of government. In this paper concrete examples are given of the vital role local governments play in the fight against the COVID19 pandemic.The tasks of local governments are especially difficult in countries where the welfare system is underdeveloped, and cities constitute the last resort for people not protected by other systems. Municipalities can play a crucial role in ensuring that all members of the community are taken care of when the economy is at great risk of collapse.

#5 FEPS COVID Response Paper: On the limitations of the ECBs COVID19 response. By Jakob Vestergaard and Daniela Gabor
The COVID-19 crisis caused stress in European sovereign debt markets. The potential impact on euro resilience of rapidly increasing spreads on Italian government bonds gave rise to particular concern. The ECB’s response – ranging from the Pandemic Emergency Purchases Programme (PEPP) to several rounds of easing of its collateral policy – has been praised for quickly stabilizing government bond markets and ameliorating euro resilience concerns. But it may not last. As has often before been the case, the ECBs crisis response seeks to strike a balance between liquidity provision and risk control, but measures launched in the name of the latter threatens to undermine the former.

#4 FEPS COVID Response Paper: Coronavirus: navigating a new storm with an old boat? By Estrella Durá Ferrandis and Irina de Sancho Alonso
How the fiscal and financial architecture of the EU can be changed in order to protect the rights of citizens and the social welfare state in situations of economic crisisThis paper analyses how the financial reforms undertaken by the EU after the 2008 crisis have legally and financially limited the State in its ability to intervene in many areas as well as raising barriers to its protective role.It explores how the macroeconomic and financial architecture that was implemented subsequently placed the financial system and macroeconomic stability on the highest pedestal of European objectives, relegating the rest of the social objectives provided for in the Treaties of the Union to a second category of importance, always subordinated to the achievement of the former.

#3 FEPS COVID Response Paper: Rebuilding after the corona crisis. By Lodewijk Asscher
The Leader of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA), explains how the global health crisis, which metastasised in an economic and social crisis, illustrates a crucial point: the era where the market was king, the individual the solution, and the state the problem is bankrupt, both technically and morally. To avoid that in this crisis, we again sacrifice the most vulnerable and mortgage our future, he considers it is high time to rein in shareholder-capitalism, whilst favouring cooperation over competition when rebuilding after the crisis.

#2 FEPS COVID Response Paper: SURE: A quick fix to be welcomed in the search for long-term solutions. By Francesco Corty, Amandine Crespy
On 1st April, European Commission President von der Leyen announced the proposal to create a European instrument for temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE). This instrument is to provide loans-based financial support to member states facing a sudden increase in public expenditure due to their quest to preserve employment. In this policy brief, the authors argue that SURE is a timely and welcome instrument to support member states as they address the short-term challenges of the Covid-19 crisis.

 #1 FEPS COVID Response Paper: Debt Monetization and EU Recovery Bonds. By Alberto Botta, Alberto Russo, Eugenio Caverzasi
This policy insight highlights some peculiar characteristics, from an economic point of view, of the current Covid-19 crisis. It looks at its exogenous nature with respect to Eurozone countries, as well as at the complex mix of supply and demand shocks it entails. Given these features, the authors suggest two intertwined policy measures in order to tackle the emergency phase of the crisis and the subsequent recovery. 

FEPS COVID Response Webinars

#3 FEPS - ETUI Double WebinarIn the aftermath of the COVID crisis, Progressives need to come together to foster a strong common vision for a more resilient, equal and sustainable European society. The Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) hosted two discussions to address the EU recovery scenarios and the tools available to re-shape the society , while tackling issues pre-covid highlighted by the crisis and the inequalities those last months have exacerbated. Watch Session 1 and Session 2

Speakers: Paul Magnette, President, Parti Socialiste and Member of FEPS Scientific Council, Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and Paris School of Economic and Peter Bofinger, University of Wuerzburg and Member of FEPS Scientific Council, Lodewijk Asscher, PvdA Party Leader, Philippe Pochet, General Director, ETUI, Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics, Friends of Europe

#2 FEPS COVID Response Webinar: EU Spending that Empowers: for an inclusive and more resilient Europe
This public online event was the occasion to discuss how government spending targeted to social outcomes can play a role in the recovery strategy from the pandemic. It was an opportunity to reflect on how a social investment approach could play a role in the reconstruction of European welfare systems and how it can find its place in the next budget of the European Union. Watch the webinar

Speakers:  EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit,  Professor Anton Hemerijck (European University Institute), FEPS Secretary General László Andor, Lieve Fransen (Director of Europa Insights), MEP Irene Tinagli (Chair of ECON EP Committe)

#1 FEPS COVID Response webinar: Is Europe SURE?

The global financial crisis left us with a certainty: the EU is not well equipped with counter-cyclical measures that can promptly respond to negative shocks. Many influential voices have put forward proposals for a stabilisation function within the EU or the Euro area, nonetheless we have entered this new unexpected crisis without the policy tools we needed to offset it. Once again, European institutions have the difficult task now to design and implement new policy arrangements amidst the emergency. In this webinar the expert panel discussed one of the instruments proposed, the "Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency" (SURE), wich is one of the likely innovations brought to life thanks to the pandemic-induced political will. Watch the webinar

Speakers: Frank Vandenbroucke, University of Amsterdam, Theresa Kuhn, Co-Director of the Amsterdam Center for European Studies, Roel Beetsma, Member of the European Fiscal Board, Joan Burton, Former Minister of Social Protection of Ireland, László Andor, FEPS Secretary General

Read our collection of articles on #COVID19 outbreak in The Progressive Post

Listen to our FEPS Talks podcast episodes related to #COVID19 outbreak

Survey on European Dreams for the Future of Europe

In partnership with Policy Solutions, Hungary

The founders of the European project were dreamers. They dreamed of a united Europe: a continent of peace, solidarity and shared prosperity. A Europe without borders and divisions that celebrates the continent’s incredible diversity. A Europe evolving towards an ever closer union, inspired by the notion that Europe will always be stronger together.

Do Europeans today share the founders’ dream?

What is their view in an era where this dream is portrayed as a nightmare by eurosceptics and ultra-nationalist groups? During a time when the United Kingdom has left the European Union whilst solving big challenges from climate change to migration demands more - not less - cooperation?

What are the hopes and dreams of everyday Europeans in this complex and rapidly changing world? For themselves and their families. For their own countries and for the Union as a whole?

Together, FEPS and Policy Solutions set to find out with this landmark survey covering the 14 most populous Member States. Our research defines the European dream with clarion insights for all those engaged in tackling Europe’s most pressing challenges.

As policymakers debate the Future of Europe - hoping to make the Union more responsive to the views and needs of citizens - this research is especially timely.

Democracy works best when everyone is heard. This survey shares the people’s voice. We all need to hear it.

Report: European Dream

Event: launch of the European Dream Report

Ahead of the upcoming climate summit in New York in September FEPS together with its partners is setting up a steering committee in order to be able to reflect on and test ideas of guiding proposals to be presented on this topic.

The group will be chaired by Teresa Ribera, Minister for the ecological transition in Spain and will bring together expert policy advisers, political representatives, civil society activists, academics and other key stakeholders in the climate justice debate. 

10th -11th April - First meeting of the steering committee in Madrid

24th – 25th June - Second meeting in Brussels

20th September - Third and final meeting with high-level side event open to the public in New York

FEPS with the support of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung New York office, Foundation Max van der Stoel, fundación Pablo Iglesias and the Environment and Development Resource Centre (EDRC).

Climate change is gaining more understanding and thus more prominence in worldwide debates. The Paris agreement brought international agreement to a clear objective. Since then the IPCC report published last autumn warned that there is a crucial twelve-year window of opportunity for action against global warming to be effective. Nevertheless influential actors still threaten to derail these agreements and negate the science of climate change.

In Europe we are witnessing social challenges in regards to climate change; the ‘gilets jaunes’ movement in France has brought about social unrest, based on inequalities but the introduction of a diesel tax was the catalyst. Indeed populists are now commandeering the issue and taking it off track; there is resistance to transition from declining industries such as coal, despite many people recognising that the industry is economically viable and is a major contributor to dangerously high levels of air pollution in cities. Many people in influential positions are already banking against climate issues, favouring a narrative of jobs and economy for today, climate later. Worryingly these political movements are expected to achieve a good result in the European elections, changing the political landscape in Brussels and the agenda setting of the Union which has always been a key actor in climate policy.

Internationally the current Presidents of the USA and Brazil are case examples illustrating already the extent of the destruction that is possible, when bypassing the objectives of the Paris agreement; all to the detriment of the most vulnerable in society and those least able to oppose the policies. Moreover they are also usually the ones who have contributed least to climate change. Another pertinent example is the drying up of Lake Chad. There is still no common climate strategy in the region of Lake Chad or policies of how to allocate the water in the region.

Interestingly the World Economic Forum in Davos again this year recognised that climate risk is a top issue however the response to address this is insufficient.

Climate change is affecting our biodiversity, weather patterns, agriculture etc and is increasing security issues. Droughts, forest fires and flooding are becoming more common and it is wreaking havoc on our societies and our natural environment.

As Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed at the COP 24“Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it.” People are suffering the consequences of climate change already and many are calling for urgent action. Progressives need to be prepared and offer sound policies.

Opportunity for Progressives:

Defending social justice, fighting inequalities and caring for our common well-being are traditional progressive values. Despite having a decent record of implementing climate policies on paper compared to other political movements[1], there is still a lot that progressives could have done and still choose not to. They need to do more if they are to ensure that they are the most credible and well-placed movement able to harness the right narrative and bring about effective change for people and planet.

Climate Justice therefore is a key endeavour of our times and progressives need to be leading on this issue, even more so against the current civil society backdrop which is calling for more and urgent climate action. Consequently Progressives should be setting the agenda on this, the opportunity is New York, this September 2019.

Therefore FEPS, as the Progressive European foundation will hold a high-level conference on the fringe of the United Nations General Assembly entitled “UNited for Climate Justice” on 20th September 2019. In order to prepare for this a reflection group or steering committee will be brought together which will help identify a guiding set of proposals to be presented there.

Climate Justice:

The concept of climate justice frames climate change as a political and ethical issue.

It recognises that environmental injustice stems from social and economic injustices within our societies. The fact that it is the most fragile and vulnerable, the most marginalised and disadvantaged who are affected most by climate change and the least able to deal with its consequences. Furthermore it considers climate change is further exacerbating already existing inequalities. The idea is to consider the fairness of this often disproportionate impact of climate change on different sectors of our societies in both developed and developing parts of the world. It acknowledges that sustainable choices are not accessible to all equally.

Existing data proves there is a direct link that disasters affect the most fragile states most of all and fragility affects where disasters happen. There are limitations to the current political responses to rising climate instability and the need for systemic change if we are to truly address the issue.

The meaning and definition of climate justice has various strands and interpretations, with two main approaches; the main difference being about who bears the responsibility of polluting, i.e. the ‘industrialised north’ and developed or newly-developed countries, contrasting with who are the victims, i.e. the poor ‘global south’. Then the questions about burden-sharing, prevention and having effective capacities to adapt come into play. Whether the burden should be equal or whether a higher amount of responsibility should be accepted by those parties who have polluted more and are better equipped to deal with the challenges and whether they should provide more to help the global south to be better adapted.

There is also of course a legal element to this debate about legal justice and litigation on climate-related issues. This is something that is gaining much more ground in recent years with some positive examples and developments in the legal arena.

Whilst acknowledging these varying strands of climate justice theory this initiative will mainly focus on how to bring about key changes that will raise ambition, financing and help create long-term, solid and holistic ambition, this in responsibility-bearing states but also by empowering and enabling more capacities in an equal manner globally.

Focus of the initiative:

The substance of this initiative aims to bring about fresh-thinking into the core of this debate. The fundamental objective is to create a sound narrative of raising notably political ambition on climate action. The approach should be holistic and global-orientated with key policy proposals and guidelines as the output. It should be above-all, forward-looking. Yet it also needs to answer to the urgency of the current situation. Viable policies and alternatives should be brought forward and tested.

As a progressive political foundation FEPS can offer a space that enables different stakeholders to come together; academics, policy experts with civil society, political representatives and other various stakeholders.

The discussions should consider commitment and accountability, political leadership where momentum can come from, how to move from analysis to action and how to ensure sustained leadership. How to avoid talking and acting in silos and move to a multi-disciplinary approach and how to share the knowledge in a multidisciplinary approach. Having in mind that this is not intended to be about duplication or about creating new tools, it is about enhancing existing ones and using them better.

The summit itself will play a big role in keeping momentum alive; scaling-up ambition and continuing to work together to stop the climate issue being derailed. There will be some importance given to speaking with a common voice, with a common plan forward on the international stage in New York. Climate security may also be a large part of the discussions but it’s not yet clear what place it will have on the agenda at the September summit.

Initiative framework:

With the support of Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres FEPS was advised to set up an annual fringe event in the framework of the UN General Assembly, which takes place annually in New York in September. FEPS carried out its first initiative of this kind last year, 2018 and the topic was on migration. The steering committee and the proposals gave successful output in helping ensure the migration compact came about. This year and especially considering there will be an extraordinary summit for climate change on the 23rd September, FEPS decided to hold its annual UN fringe conference on the topic of climate change. The title will be “UNited for Climate Justice”. This will be done with the support of several partners; the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung New York, the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, Foundation Max van der Stoel, fundación Pablo Iglesias and the Environment and Development Resource Centre (EDRC).


[1] Prof. R Ladrech, 2017 https://www.feps-europe.eu/Assets/Publications/PostFiles/466_1.pdf