A solid framework is needed to guide Europe through the twin green and digital transitions, if they are to meet their goals in a consistent, measurable and transparent way that delivers for citizens and gains their trust in the process.
To that end, possible ways forward were discussed by a host of experts in the second policy debate of Friends of Europe’s Connected Europe series, an initiative launched in partnership with Vodafone to foster a successful, green and resilient digital transformation.
The policy debate held online on 20 April centred around three key themes – standardisation, transparency and trust – which were initially set out in a working paper resulting from citizen focus groups and a working group meeting carried out in March.
- 05:23 “What we’re talking about is the kinds of structural major investment changes that are generational. We need patient capital, long term returns. We need to manage the expectations of the people who are providing the funds … so everyone knows we’re in this together for the long haul.” [Tamsin Rose, Friends of Europe Senior Fellow and event moderator]
- 10:12 “How to achieve standardisation? … For us what is very crucial is data collection, transparency, education and the right regulatory solutions, such as the ‘incentivise versus penalise’ [approach].” [Agnieszka Skorupinska, Senior EU Affairs Advisor at Vodafone]
- 12:22Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, CEO of the Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) Foundation, noted that he agreed with the principles behind the working paper, but that the “devil is in the details” – for example, the indicators on the impact of CO2 emissions: “If one wants indicators, one has to make sure that the basis is right to establish them.”
- 19:38 “What we really need at this stage is an agreement on how to actually value assets, as a result of the impact of the green transformation. And I think that’s where, today, banks and investors are struggling because there is not a common standard yet.” [Jakob Haesler, Managing Director of Foxdixneuf and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)]
- 24:22 “What is important is to align the policy agendas,” noted Andrea Mairate, Economic Advisor in the European Commission Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs. 25:55 “We have to recognise in terms of standardisation that there are challenges which have to be addressed, not least access to reliable standardised data, and … ensuring trust among stakeholders along the supply chain.”
- 31:52 “As investors we need policy that can tell us how companies are doing vis-à-vis their sustainability engagements and that facilitates the identification of that data,” said Fabio Marchetti, Group Head of International Affairs at Generali. At the same time, sustainability standards need to be aligned with global initiatives: “It would be a real shame for Europe, which is leading the sustainability race, to be a victim of its success by imposing complex metrics which hamper international investments.”
- 43:27 “We need to completely change the mindset of business schools … Their financial appraisal is short-term, they care nothing about mid to long-term.” [Nuno Lacasta, CEO of the Portuguese Environment Agency]
- 1:13:49 “We have a way of maintaining our current standard of living, perhaps even raising it, if we invest in the long-term solutions of space mining.” [Jakub Zientala, EU Affairs Officer at Circle of Sustainable Europe]
- 1:16:19 Future cash flow models don’t take into account the survival of the human species; at the same time Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) data is not integrated in the valuation of a company, said participant Mariem Mhadhbi, Co-Founder and CEO of Valuecometrics: “Everyone has his own model – this landscape … should be consolidated, so that we can push the ESG approach further.”
- 40:37 “On the one hand we have loads of information. A lot of that information we’re not even able, at this point, to process and use towards, for instance, predictive monitoring … On the other hand, we also need to develop new tools, new information data sets.” [Nuno Lacasta]
- 41:44 “We need to monitor the deployment of European funds, including our [Recovery and Resilience] fund … so as not to foster greenwashing, so as not to see these funds go into activities which are little to do with climate change mitigation and or adaptation. And that’s a challenge; some of the metrics are not quite yet there.” [Nuno Lacasta]
- 48:00 Connected Europe Senior Fellow Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke urged participants from the European Commission and Parliament, and from companies, to consider where exactly the framework on transparency and metrics would come from: “We’ve got it coming from different sides – DESI, the possibility of incorporating the green indicators, and you’ve got the European Green Digital Coalition. But it’s urgent, and I would say the biggest investment we need to make is getting that framework right.”
- 49:01 “By co-founding the Green Digital Coalition of the private sector, our priority was to somehow build the metrics and measure what we are saying so that the words do not remain words, and it is in everyone’s interest that we can concretely support our cases in the various sectors with concrete data.” [Agnieszka Skorupinska]
- 55:29 MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen said she would like to see more European Bauhaus-style initiatives to deliver improved living standards for all: “It is a huge change, but if we do not do it so that everybody benefits, especially the vulnerable groups, there’s no trust.”
- 59:11 “Fake news” needs to be countered, said European Commission Independent Expert Ana Teles, who suggested a “truth barometer” on decarbonisation and a “task force for green transition communication”, including social science professionals to “sustain a coherent message” and help build trust.
- 1:02:36 “When we are talking about trust, we have to translate this complexity [of the Green Deal] in some simple and easy messages,” noted Ivone Pereira Martins from the European Environment Agency. 1:03:21 “And I think there’s a need for the involvement of those that can generate trust – and these are generally the ones that are more close to people.”
- 1:10:41 On people’s “distrust of government and business” and the distinction between individual action and business/government action, it is a “false dichotomy”, said Executive Director of Our Horizon and 2017 North American Young Leader, Robert Shirkey: “What is a business without its customers? What is the government without an electorate? … Maybe [there should be] a shift in our narrative that we are a part of this problem, as individuals, collectively, and that that’s not a bad thing.”
- 1:11:48 “So much of what we do that’s unsustainable can be driven by disconnect … through disclosure [and] transparency we can facilitate connection, we can close those experiential gaps – that then impacts consumer demand, which in turn affects how businesses and governments respond.” [Robert Shirkey]
- 1:18:42 “Young people have to be a part of this green and digital transition, and they have to be provided the mechanisms in order to actually be able to deliver their innovative ideas and their strategies for a sustainable future.” [Razvan Foncea, UN Youth Delegate, Romania]
The power of connectivity is beyond imagination. If developed properly and fairly, it can boost and transform lives, create a sense of community, and enable Europe to live up to its values. Connectivity opens up a world of access to education, skills and training, enabling self-agency in tackling climate change & the housing crisis as well as improving mobility and agriculture – and so much more.
That is the power we are tapping into through Connected Europe, an initiative launched in partnership with Vodafone to foster a successful, green and resilient digital transformation in Europe.
Solutions cannot be not determined by a single institution or approach. It isn’t about access to jobs vs. access to health, or a greener Europe vs. a strong economy. It’s about wiring things around people and communities to improve livelihoods. It’s about private, public and civil society working in a different way, and together, locked in by social contract that enables a just transition to a world that is fast emerging.
Participants include: Violeta Bulc, former European Commissioner for Transport, former Deputy Prime Minister of Slovenia, and Founder of Ecocivilisation; Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) Foundation; Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of European Parliament; Nuno Lacasta, CEO of the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA); and Agnieszka Skorupinska, Senior EU Affairs Advisor at Vodafone, among many others.
This policy debate is the second in a series and will be an opportunity to discuss the recommendations of the Green Europe Working Group Meeting with a multi-stakeholder audience.
As Europe navigates the digital transition, what is already in its toolbox – and what needs to improve – to ensure it is also a genuinely green transition that will transform people’s lives for the better? There is no question that properly leveraging digital technology will play a vital role in ensuring the success of the Green Deal and improving quality of life. Indeed, one of the prerequisites for European Member States’ recovery and resilience plans will be their effective contribution to the green and digital transitions. As states finalise their national plans for accessing the EU’s €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), they are also looking to ensure that every investment respects the emissions thresholds set out in the Taxonomy Regulation – also mandating that activities must ‘do no significant harm’ to the Regulation’s other environmental objectives. As the recovery gets underway, can all sectors work together to harness their collective ambitions and to ensure that Europe’s digital ‘brand’ stands for an approach and products that are green, fair and of high quality?
This debate will be an opportunity to discuss the recommendations of the Green Europe Working Group Meeting with a multi-stakeholder audience.
- By Chris Kremidas Courtney
- Area of Expertise
- Peace, Security & Defence
- European Defence Studies
- By Paul Taylor
- By Eurisa Rukovci