This year’s World Environment Day follows a bitter moment for the EU environmental and climate policies. The Commission’s Green Week won’t erase the current inter institutional negotiations that have been greenwashing the new Common Agricultural Policy. Nor will it make up for the delay, in an attempt to water it down, the due diligence and sustainable governance proposals which were supposed to enhance corporate accountability in their supply chains.
Despite the Union’s net-zero pledges by 2050, its carbon emissions continue to rise. It’s almost as if there is a deliberate disconnect between commitment and action. If no solid societal counterforce emerges, there is a risk that very weak sustainability principles will ultimately underpin the Green Deal. Citizens’ oversight is needed to identify policy weaknesses that could ultimately undermine the fight against climate change. Yet, as of today, when citizens get involved in fighting climate change, they tend to do so in a too general and uncoordinated way that does not challenge the undisputed influence of large companies on climate change policies.
A recent example is that of the recent failure of Greta Thunberg and other youth campaigners to influence the CAP programme. Despite Greta Thunberg’s unparalleled visibility and public support, even from EU Commissioner for Climate Action Timmermans, her policy impact was – once more – close to null. By attempting to influence with no concrete lobbying strategy, Greta Thunberg didn’t leverage all the tools available to her. To succeed, climate campaigns need to be guided by a well-planned lobbying strategy. Activists need to carefully map their political and regulatory environments, target their messaging through the appropriate avenues of participation and understand how to effectively secure and engage in meetings with policymakers. In a nutshell, citizen activists need to be ready to do their homework, speak the right language, and follow-up on their actions. It’s about more than just a message!
It’s not just Greta Thunberg – there’s a broader need for citizens to move from protest to lobbying. When done responsibly, lobbying acts as a legitimizer, a mobilizer, and an equalizer in the policy process. By participating in it, citizens help keep EU democracy participatory and fair. Unsurprisingly enough, corporate lobbyists play a key role attempting to block or water down key EU climate policy measures. It is in the immediate economic interest of most industries to lobby against these policies. But we know that short-term economic interests are not actually compatible with long-term financial stability: climate change affects business too.
Corporate political activities which influence EU climate policy have diversified, and become more insidious. Industrial energy and natural resources users are familiar with decision-making processes and decision-makers’ priorities. They know how to successfully influence determinant institutional actors, and greatly benefit from a thorough knowledge of lobbying strategies to disproportionately influence the policy process vis-a-vis civil society.
If citizens’ movements embrace the same repertoire of tools to influence the decision-making process, they can actually hold politicians accountable on the promises they made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The recent Dutch court ruling to hold Shell liable for climate change shows the power that can be used by civil society to ensure the enforcement of companies and Member States’ emission reduction pledges. What’s more, it shows that business leaders need to take citizens and shareholders seriously. It is urgent for citizens to realize this untapped power they are capable of. Citizens don’t need to wait to be given the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, and they obviously can’t rely on our political institutions to save the planet. They need to act now!
This is why, with the support of the European Climate Foundation, The Good Lobby has decided to launch The Good Lobby Climate Incubator which aims at enhancing the advocacy capacity of climate movements across the European Union. Lobbying for the environment will be determinant to ensure EU Leader’s commitment to their green pledges. As climate movements will be instrumental in EU Climate change politics, The Good Lobby intends to catalyze their impact on EU policy-making. They will also be key to ensure greater political and legal accountability, at a time when many try to shirk the imperatives of the European Green Deal.
Civil society’s lobbying will also be needed to ensure EU institutions follow through on their environmental commitments. Experience has shown that accountability can’t be taken for granted in EU multi-level governance, and citizens will need to be alert and lobby to ensure the green transition actually happens.