13 May 2022 – If the European Green Deal is to succeed, the EU must be a driving force in developing sustainable economic systems and societal wellbeing both at home and across the planet. This is the key message from the International System Change Compass – The Global Implications of Achieving the European Green Deal, a ground-breaking new report produced by the Club of Rome, SYSTEMIQ, and the Open Society European Policy Institute, setting out a new paradigm for Europe’s role in the world.
The European Green Deal is a high-ambition strategy: it recognises that economic development, the fight against the climate crises, inefficient resource use and a just transition must go hand in hand. However, this large-scale policy framework will also change the EU’s relationships with countries that bear the brunt of mass consumption, resource extraction, and environmental destruction. Successful implementation of the European Green Deal depends not only on consistent policies across the EU, but also on enabling other regions outside Europe to achieve sustainable economies and higher societal wellbeing. If the EU reduces emissions and cleans up production in Europe but continues to consume huge amounts of virgin resources and imports produced with dirty energy, the green transition will fail.
This new report is based on the analytical framework of the 2020 report The System Change Compass – Implementing the European Green Deal in a Time of Recovery (authored by the SYSTEMIQ and the Club of Rome) that described the required systemic interventions to implement the European Green Deal within the European Union. Using insights from the UN International Resource Panel, other Club of Rome reports and scientific evidence, the International System Change Compass sets out how the EU can and should change its trade, investment, and political relationships with low- and lower-middle income countries to support their own transition paths in a disrupted, globalized world.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the seminal report to the Club of Rome The Limits to Growth. “We no longer have 50 years to limit our impact on our environmental and social ecosystems from unsustainable growth. As we face the impacts of COVID, climate change and conflict, the only way to build resilience in our economies is to change and optimise our systems now,” says Sandrine Dixson-Declève, co-president of the Club of Rome. “System change goes beyond reducing the negative impacts of the current economic model. Instead, it requires changing the resource-driven relationships between high-consuming countries and extracting countries that have long perpetuated unequal consumption patterns and power structures” The EU can use the System Change Compass as a tool to reformulate a whole range of policies – including trade, security, finance, development, competition law and intellectual property – to work in tandem with domestic measures to achieve the European Green Deal’s objectives and the Fitfor55 package.
The International System Change Compass highlights how energy and material over-consumption in Europe creates an enormous “footprint” in other countries and hinders their own transitions. “If Europe is serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the European Green Deal vision for a just and sustainable society, incremental shifts in just one sector or another towards optimising efficiency in the current systems will not be enough,” says Janez Potočnik, co-chair of the UN International Resource Panel, former European Commissioner for the Environment and partner at SYSTEMIQ. “But by making fundamental changes, at a system level, we can achieve a net reduction in Europe’s resource consumption.”
To achieve system change, European leaders must work in partnership with their counterparts in other regions to effect deep transformations. A key goal for these partnerships is to dismantle neocolonial resource extraction patterns and to distribute the value created in supply chains more fairly. Green diplomacy can update global governance to properly confront climate change, health crises and conflict by creatingThe full impact of economic activity on people and planet must be measured and priced into economic development. EU strategies must address the local ecological and social wellbeing in all affected geographies.
“System change requires not just a shift in thinking about consumption, value chains, and global trade flows, but decisive political leadership to create an economic system that meets human needs across the planet,” says Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the need for Europe to reduce its dependence on supplies of energy, food and resources that come from unsustainable sources and unstable regions. The EU needs to invest in economic resilience and security both for itself and its trade partners by quickly moving towards a sustainable economy and climate neutrality.
At a time of radically changing geopolitics, the International System Change Compass encourages European leaders to accelerate the green and social transition globally by turning the EU’s international relationships into collaborative partnerships for sustainability. While Russia is shaking international collaboration to the core and creating a new geo-political paradigm, many (extracting) countries want deeper cooperation so that the burdens of the climate crisis and the benefits of economic development are shared more equitably. The International System Change Compass provides a roadmap to a future where the quality of life for people across the globe is vastly improved by green economies that meet human needs, provide stability and security, and protect the planet. The EU is rebuilding from Covid, with its vision of green and social prosperity still achievable. The invasion of Ukraine has only reinforced the belief that ambitions for justice and security should be supported beyond the EU’s borders. Europe’s policymakers have a rare opportunity to build new and resilient partnerships around the world, based on shared global needs for people and planet with a view towards greater prosperity for all health, biodiversity, and a stable climate.