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GreeceINTERVIEW: The natural disasters in Greece are a stark reminder that the...

INTERVIEW: The natural disasters in Greece are a stark reminder that the climate crisis is reality

Hellenic News of America
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The natural disasters in Greece are a stark reminder that the climate crisis is reality already today, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Pauliina Urpilainen, said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA).

For this reason, she underlined that “our response is two-fold. First, we must continue to take decisive climate action in Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We must cut emissions and transform our economies, while ensuring just transition.”
“Europe accounts for roughly 10% of global CO2 emissions. That is why, second, we must help our partner countries in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and rally the global community to reach the goals of the Paris agreement. Around 35% of the EU’s external action budget is earmarked for climate action. Climate and energy are prioritized sectors under Global Gateway,” she stated.

The full interview of Jutta Pauliina Urpilainen to the ANA-MPA and Chrysostomos Bikatzik follows:

Q: This European Commission is a “ geopolitical Commission,” Can you explain to me what it means, and how is this achieved?

A: The concept was coined in recognition that many challenges we face are global by nature – climate crisis and biodiversity loss know no boundaries, and advancements of technology make us interconnected. Unfortunately, the demise of democracy is another global trend.

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The EU and the European Commission had to rise to the challenge. During this Commission’s mandate, we have streamlined our financing instruments and moved from traditional development cooperation towards mutually beneficial international partnerships.
The Commission’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and leadership in condemning Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine are testaments to the geopolitical Commission emerging.

Q: Is the EU a global leader in official development assistance? And in which direction the money of European citizens is channeled and what are the priorities at this time?
A: The EU and its Member States together are the world’s biggest provider of Official Development Aid. Based on preliminary OECD figures, we provided almost € 93 billion in 2022.

Naturally, Ukraine is the big geographical priority. We have promised to stand by Ukrainians as long as it takes and help them rebuild their homeland. But as the Commissioner for International Partnerships, I am glad to say that the support to the EU’s immediate neighbourhood has not come at the expense of partner countries in other regions.

Our ultimate objective is to help the global community to achieve socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable development. In today’s world, infrastructure is at the center of transforming societies. For example, clean energy palette requires investments in the production of renewables. In December 2021, we launched Global Gateway, the EU’s comprehensive global investment strategy, which covers also soft infrastructure and enabling environment. Throughout my mandate, my personal priority has been education. Basic education and skills development are crucial elements of Global Gateway.

Q: Addressing the climate crisis is one of the priorities. In Greece we are already experiencing its tragic consequences. The challenge is global. In which direction should European initiatives move?

A: The natural disasters in Greece are a stark reminder that the climate crisis is reality already today.

Our response is two-fold. First, we must continue to take decisive climate action in Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We must cut emissions and transform our economies, while ensuring just transition.

Europe accounts for roughly 10% of global CO2 emissions. That is why, second, we must help our partner countries in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and rally the global community to reach the goals of the Paris agreement. Around 35 % of the EU’s external action budget is earmarked for climate action. Climate and energy are prioritized sectors under Global Gateway.

Q: But many argue that there will be no result – at the level of prevention – if polluting countries are not pressured (a lot) to reduce their environmental footprint.

A: Indeed, everyone must do their fair share. This is what the EU advocates at global stage. In addition to cutting emissions, developed countries have to find ways to make adequate climate financing available for middle- and low-income countries. This has been a big discussion within G20 lately. The EU is calling for Multilateral Development Banks, in particular the World Bank, to be reformed to respond better to the pressing needs.

Last week at the SDG Summit in New York, President von der Leyen mentioned carbon pricing as a prominent tool that could support the global fight against climate change. Through carbon pricing, it is possible to create incentives for innovation and collect revenues from those who pollute. Currently, only 20% of global emissions are covered by carbon pricing.

Q: In addition, some (other, say many) argue that the EU, belatedly, is trying to strengthen relations with countries where the influence of Russia and China is strong or catalytic such as in Africa and countries with energy reserves.

A: If we look at for example Africa, the EU has been and continues to be its biggest trading partner, source of foreign investments and provider of aid.

But it is true that the geopolitical competition has become more pronounced. Africa is a geopolitical hotspot where all the major actors are present. We too have become more strategic in our partnership with Africa. Global Gateway is our positive partnership offer. It aims to mobilise investments worth up to € 300 billion in strategic sectors. Half of these investments – € 150 billion – will benefit Africa.

With Global Gateway, we are helping partners to cut unstainable dependencies and become more resilient and autonomous in sectors like energy, food security and health. According to the many exchanges I have had with African leaders, our offer fares well in comparison to the other offers out there.

Q: And the last question is about the subject of the discussion you participated in on Athens Democracy Forum, here, in Athens “ The Clash of Civilizational States”, which focused on finding the definition of “ civilizational states,” asking whether they reject the supposedly universal values of the West. What is the ideal concept for a modern state – and does it necessarily include democracy? Most importantly, is there any hope of finding common ground?

A: I am a believer in European values, including democracy. We humans desire to be free, but not alone – we are willing to give up some of our individualistic freedom in exchange of functioning society, protection and rule of law. A good society has a fair balance of freedoms and responsibilities, and this balance can be found only through inclusive democratic process.

We have plenty of evidence of democratic states being most successful – or least failed – in terms of long-term economic prosperity, sustainable development, and wellbeing of citizens. Authoritarian states struggle with continuity because of lack of trust. If the system is built on oppression and inequality, there is no solidarity. External shocks revel the internal weaknesses of such systems and make them crumble.

I put my trust in youth. Wherever I go, young people overwhelming subscribe to European values and understand the importance of sustainable development. I have made empowering and engaging young people, including in participatory democratic processes, a priority of my mandate.

SOURCE; ANA-MPA

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