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Panel 306: The EU and Global Sustainable Futures III: Member States Approaches to Green Growth
Monday, 02/Sep/2019:
3:00pm - 4:30pm

Session Chair: Viviane Gravey, Queen's University Belfast
Location: Room 12.32

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The EU and Global Sustainable Futures III - Member States' Approaches to Green Growth

Chair(s): Viviane Gravey (Queen's University Belfast)

Discussant(s): Jonas Schoenefeld (University of East Anglia)

In the third panel on the role of the EU in global sustainable futures we look at the rationale behind some of the member States for their approach to the transition towards green economies and green growth strategies, under the assumption that said transition is necessary in order to comply with international commitments such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals Agenda for 2030, but also to boost European economies after the recent economic crisis. Each of the papers of this panel will focus on the approaches and policies towards green growth in four specific member States with very different backgrounds and motivations, in trying to identify barriers towards the green transition path, commonalities and differences between them, and also with other member States (and/or countries out of the EU). The four countries under analysis face particular challenges that make them worth of individual consideration: Romania (Davidescu), the UK (Bailey), Spain (Fernandez) and Slovakia (Misik and Oravcova). The panel will discuss how the situations and approaches of these countries can influence the rest of the EU, as well as the possibilities for said countries to take alternative paths, and the consequences of doing so.


Presentations of the Symposium


Promoting International Environmental Norms: the Sustainable Development and Green Economy Discourse in Romania

Simona Davidescu
University of York

This research seeks to explain the emergence on the policy agenda of two interrelated environmental norms, sustainable development (SD) and green economy (GE) in Romania, a country considered an environmental laggard. The SD discourse emerged several decades later than at the global level, in mid-2000s, but has not taken substantial roots in terms of policy developments (Davidescu, 2013), and the GE discourse has gained a surprising and rapid rise to prominence after 2015, alongside rather than as a replacement of the SD discourse. While the adoption of both concepts has been driven by an external agenda (UNDP and EU), the policy puzzle to explain is why SD was less successful than GE in terms of agenda setting. Furthermore, the question of what has made it possible for the GE discourse to peak after 2015 challenges the claim of the GE discourse that this is the way to address both the economic and ecological crises (Bina, 2013). The argument proposed is that the differences in agenda setting were not linked to the economic crisis narrative as a window of opportunity, but to the key role played by a policy entrepreneur in a ‘perfect storm’ moment of a technocratic government in power. This policy entrepreneur was able to align the domestic agenda with that of the EU and to overcome the previous politicisation of the SD discourse. The article offers an empirical testing case following up on recent work aimed at bringing conceptual clarity and refinement to the multiple stream approach (MSA), as well as treating ‘policy entrepreneurs as the heroes of the MSA story’ (Cairney 2018: 200). Furthermore, the literature on climate change and sustainability has looked at conditions for success of policy entrepreneurs in bringing about change in complex societal problems linked to the adoption of the Paris Agreement and institutionalisation of the demand for entrepreneurship (Green, 2017).


Evolution and Challenges for Green Economy Approaches in Spain

Rosa Maria Fernandez
University of Chester

For a country involved in intense political instability in recent years, it becomes apparent that sustainability policies have been left aside. This has positioned Spain as a laggard with regard to environmental and climate change policy implementation, compared to other EU member States. Both the EU and the OECD have repeatedly mentioned the opportunities for Spain to change its fiscal system to give it a much greener approach. The deep and still enduring effects of the economic crisis and the corresponding austerity measures contributed to the situation with regard to sustainability getting even worse, with the cancellation of the support schemes for renewable energies. But the approach to green growth in Spain was full of non-consistencies even before the crisis. This paper will assess if, based on this problematic background, the pledges of the new socialist government could really make a shift in the right direction. Ambitious targets for emissions reduction, for the end of subsidies to polluting energy sources, and for renewable energy use (beyond EU targets), seem to indicate things may be changing. However, after public initiatives being dismantled, and only a few private actors already moving in the green growth path, it is difficult to assess if these pledges will move from words to actions.


Energy Sustainability in Slovakia

Matus Misik, Veronika Oravcova
Comenius University

Long-term sustainable development of energy sector in Slovakia has been marked by specific approach towards energy transition. Although the country agrees that decarbonisation and transit to carbon-free economy are the main solutions to current climate challenges, the short-term path that it had embarked upon will determine also the long-term policies. Most importantly, the decision to continue in nuclear programme as a way to lower carbon footprint of Slovak energy sector will significantly predetermine the future possible paths of energy transition and crucially influence energy sustainability models available for the country. Although the position of other energy sectors (especially renewables) within the transition process is not yet clear, the future Slovak electricity mix will have to be able to incorporate huge production from nuclear as the latest trend is to prolong the life span of nuclear facilities up to 60 years. Together with an anticipated increase of intermittent renewables and decreased production from flexible generation sources like coal-fired power plants the high share of rigid nuclear capacity will put balancing abilities of the electricity grid to a test. Moreover, the place of smart technologies is unclear in such model as this will be based on centralised production capacities and require high-voltage interconnectors not only within the country, but also in the region. New nuclear facility in Slovakia will be a source of an overcapacity that will be redirected to export, a strategy chosen by several countries in the region what will probably have an effect on the whole Central and Eastern European energy market. The paper will question to which extent the approach taken facilitates or hinder the transition to a greener economy in the country (and neighbouring area).

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