• transform! eDossier
  • A New Energy to Change Europe

  • 13 May 16
  • This publication intends to provide a comprehensive analysis of what is at stake when talking about a progressive plan for Europe’s energy transition.

    It compiles contributions made by scientists, social activists, and trade unionists. We believe that only such a diversity of approaches and experiences will allow for an improvement of our democracy by providing activists, progressive political actors – and basically all citizens – with a set of concrete alternative proposals for an energy transition that would meet the needs of the whole of society.

    A New Energy to Change Europe

    Edited by Maxime Benatouil, Marc Delepouve and Jean-Claude Simon
    transform! europe eDossier
    energy issue #1
    2016

    Please find the pdf for download on the right (6,6 MB).

    Contents

    Maxime Benatouil: Introduction

    Anne-Frédérique Paul & Marc Delepouve: The Energy Transition Emergency – What is at Stake?

    Marc Delepouve: The Emergency of Climate Change. Scientific Knowledge, IPCC Scenarios and Representations of Climate Change

    Jean-Claude Simon: Overview of Transition Deployment


    Democracy and Social Movements: Grassroots Perspectives

    Anne-Frédérique Paul & Marc Delepouve: Principles of a Democratic Energy Transition

    Jean-Claude Simon: Citizens Initiatives

    Llorenç Planaguama: European Social Movements and the Resistance against Fracking

    Marc Delepouve & Anne-Frédérique Paul: Toward a Responsible Research


    The Geopolitics of Energy

    Dimitri Zurstrassen: Energy Issues and the Balance of Power between the European Union and its Neighbours

    Josef Baum: New Geopolitical Developments, Socio-Ecological Transformation in Europe and the Missing Link for the Climate Solution


    Greece: From Guinea Pig for Austerity to Lab for Possibilities?

    Jean-Claude Simon: Syriza’s Project for an Alternative Energy Transition

    Josef Baum: With the Sun out of the Crisis

    Marc Delepouve: Conclusion

    Introduction

    As global temperature rise, geopolitical conflict over ‘energy security’ is intensifying with too many people throughout the world unable to meet basic energy needs, the question of a fair energy transition paving the way for another model of development is more crucial than ever. Among genuine progressive forces it is now crystal clear that a new fundamental contradiction has arisen in addition to that between capital and labour – the contradiction between capital and the sustainability of the planet. Everywhere, grassroots struggles around energy are gaining ground, demonstrating a strong will to overcome corporate-led attempts to co-opt certain environmental demands under the label of green capitalism. Throughout Europe as well, citizens’ groups are advocating for energy democracy from production to redistribution along with a struggle against energy precariousness.

    The European Commission (EC)’s strategy for an Energy Union will, to say the least, not rise to the challenge. Made public in early 2015, it has a threefold objective: to create and implement a common energy policy, to increase competitiveness, and to complete the internal market. The EC strategic framework focuses mainly on the security of energy supply and on the creation of a competitive energy market – an approach that is far too inadequate in terms of tackling energy poverty. As it stands, the Energy Union is a further step towards the commodification of energy for the benefit of the monopolies and multinational corporations.

    This e-dossier intends to identify potential alternative avenues for political action and to provide a comprehensive analysis of what is at stake when talking about a progressive plan for Europe’s energy transition. In so doing, it compiles contributions made by scientists, social activists, and trade unionists. The authors firmly believe that only such a diversity of approaches and experiences will allow for an improvement of our democracy by providing activists, progressive political actors – and basically all citizens – with a set of concrete alternative proposals for an energy transition that would meet the needs of the whole of society.

    The full potential of energy transition is all too often not understood. The way it is addressed rarely reflects how it can actually be used as a means to achieve social change, on the one hand, and to reconfigure interstate relations in the direction of more cooperation instead of competition, on the other. Moreover, in terms of ecological issues, even the scenarios presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are based on contested figures that attempt to quantify the unquantifiable, which ultimately leads to false representations of climate change. Such false representations – which underestimate the actual dangers – impede collective awareness of the gravity of the danger to humanity and therefore undermine popular mobilisation. Popular mobilisation, however, is necessary for challenging the corporate power of the Global North and of the fossil fuel companies, which bear major responsibility for environmental destruction. Misrepresentation of the reality is thus a highly political matter. An accurate description based on genuine scientific results and not watered-down assessments is a major challenge for the social movements, climate justice movements, environmental NGOs, and trade unions alike – as well as for the radical left. It is quite simply a democratic necessity.

    Pointing the blame for climate change at the social elites is crucial for the radical left. The class line dividing those who caused and are responsible for it from whose who suffer most from its effects has to be clearly conveyed. For instance, a comprehensive study, broken down into social classes, on the emission of greenhouse gases would be a powerful tool in the struggle against climate change, and would help bring social-justice and climate-justice movements still closer together enabling them to mobilise more massively. Things are moving in the right direction, as in the case of the European anti-fracking campaign (see chapter 4.C). While trade unions were likely to support fracking as a source of cheaper energy and, thus, a way of limiting the downward pressure on wages, closer contacts with social movements have helped raise awareness within their ranks of fracking’s social and environmental costs for local communities.

    Intrinsically linked to a bottom-up culture of transparent dialogue, the issue of democracy is crucial for a radical left energy transition programme – at every step of the way, from production to redistribution through re-localisation. Energy transition and democracy must go hand in hand to ensure that it benefits the largest number of citizens – and from the inclusion of as many viewpoints and experiences as possible to best tackle this collective issue. Energy use should be considered a human right, and combatting energy poverty and precarity must become a top priority. The shift to a fairer and more democratic European energy model will require massive public investment, and this presupposes a strong political will. But thinking of another European energy model requires addressing the explosive questions of geopolitics and the security of energy supplies, as well as proposing new ways of cooperation with supplier countries neighbouring the EU. The democratisation of our energy model cannot be fully achieved without a redefinition of the very nature of trade relations with supplier countries. Cooperation as well as human, social, and environmental objectives must be the compass of any trade relations – especially those which involve energy. In the same spirit, hostile unilateral moves must be prevented if peace on the European continent is to be preserved.

    It is obvious that – when considered seriously – a comprehensive plan for an energy transition from a radical left perspective cannot ignore any of the above-mentioned issues. Only by taking them into account is there any possibility of addressing today’s ecological imperatives and meeting today’s social and political needs. For this reason the editorial committee of this e-book has decided to present contributions intended to illuminate every aspect of the debate over energy transition. This publication makes no claims to exhaustiveness; rather, its aim is to support the necessary diversity of the ongoing discussions within the European progressive political sphere as well as within social movements and trade unions.

    Maxime Benatouil