“A New Energy to Change Europe”

In the aftermath of the kick-off workshop of the transform! / Akademia Working Group on Energy, the diversity and the richness of the contributions led us to compile them into an e-book. It does not pretend to be exhaustive, but rather to nourish the necessary diversity of the on-going discussions within the European progressive political sphere, as well of those of social movements and trade unions. It will be available on free access on the website of transform! europe in December.

As global temperature rise, geopolitical conflict over “energy security” intensifies and too many people across the world are left 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 on top of that opposing capital and labour – the contradiction between capital and the sustainability of the planet. Everywhere, grassroots struggles around energy are gaining ground, and this shows a strong will to overcome corporate-led attempts of co-optation of some environmental claims under the label of green capitalism. Throughout Europe as well, citizens’ groups advocate for energy democracy from production to redistribution and struggle against energy precariousness.

The European Commission (EC)’s strategy for an Energy Union will not rise to the challenge, to say the least. 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 – which would remain for too incomplete with regard to 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-book 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. To do so, it compiles contributions of 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, in a renewed democratic manner paving the way for a new system based on common goods.

Too often, energy transition is not used at its full potential. The way it is addressed rarely reflects how it can actually be used as a mean to achieve social change on one hand and to reconfigure interstate relations towards more cooperation than competition on the other. Moreover, concerning ecological issues, even the scenarios presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are based on contested figures trying to quantify the unquantifiable, which ultimately leads to false representations of climate change. Such false representations – lessening the actual risks – turn out preventing collective awareness of the intensity of the threat on mankind, and therefore undermine popular mobilisation. This mobilisation would jeopardise Global North corporate power and fossil fuel companies, which bear wide responsibility for environmental destruction. It is therefore a highly political issue. The use of proper representations, based on genuine scientific results and not watered-down assessments, is a major challenge faced by social movements, climate justice movements, environmental NGOs, and trade unions alike – as well as for the radical Left. In other words, it is a democratic necessity.

The radical Left should not overlook the accountability of the upper class in climate change, since there is a tremendous contradiction between its causes (who is responsible for it?) and its effects (who is suffering from it?). For instance, a comprehensive study on the emission of greenhouse gases per social class would be a tool of significant scope in the struggle against climate change, and would allow for social justice and climate justice movements to come even closer together and to mobilise more massively. Things are moving in the right direction, as is shown by the example of the European anti-fracking campaign (see chapter 1). Whereas trade unions were likely to support fracking as a way to get cheaper energy and, thus, limiting the downward pressure on wages, closer contacts with social movements have helped raise awareness within their ranks about 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 to the largest number of citizens – and from the inclusion of as many viewpoints and experiences as possible to tackle at best this collective issue. Energy use should be considered as a human right, and the fight against energy poverty and precariousness must therefore be made a top priority. The shift towards a fairer and more democratic European energy model will require massive public investment – to put differently, a strong political will. But thinking of another European energy model requires addressing the explosive questions of geopolitics and 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 re-definition 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 – and for those dealing with energy in particular. 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 all the above-mentioned issues. It is only so that today’s ecological imperatives, as well as social and political needs, could possibly be met. That’s the reason why the editorial committee which coordinated the publication of this e-book decided to present contributions that aim to fuel every aspect of the debate over energy transition. It does not pretend to be exhaustive, but rather to nourish the necessary diversity of the on-going discussions within the European progressive political sphere, as well of those of social movements and trade unions.

Table of contents (e-book)

A New Energy to Change Europe

Maxime Benatouil, Marc Delepouve and Jean-Claude Simon (eds.)

Introduction: Maxime Benatouil

1. The Resistance Against Fracking and the European Social Movements – Report of the ENKRATEIA Project, European Observatory on Fracking and TTIP: Llorenç Planaguma and Raül Valls

2. Emergency of the Energy Transition – What is at Stake?: Marc Delepouve and Anne Paul

3. Emergency of climate change – Scientific Knowledge, IPCC Scenarios and Representations of Climate Change: Marc Delepouve

4.A Principles of a Democratic Energy Transition: Jean-Claude Simon

4.B Toward a Responsible Research: Marc Delepouve

5.A Proposals for an Alternative Energy Transition – Overview of Transition Deployment: Jean-Claude Simon

5.B Proposals for an Alternative Energy Transition – Citizens Initiatives: Jean-Claude Simon

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

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

7.A With the Sun Out of the Crisis – Project for Cooperation Aimed at Increased Implementation and Development of Solar-Thermal Facilities in Greece: Josef Baum

7.B SYRIZA’s Project for an Alternative Energy Transition: Jean-Claude Simon

Conclusion: Marc Delepouve