1 April 2015

Mistra at conference on future of EU

At the big CEPS Ideas Lab conference in Brussels, a wide range of policy issues were dealt with under the heading of ‘More or less Europe?’ Mistra took part in the discussions on the EU’s role and arranged climate sessions to cover the latest developments in the field.

The Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) is one of the most influential Brussels think tanks. At the end of February, the CEPS Ideas Lab was held for the second consecutive year. The conference attracted 600 researchers, decision-makers and other stakeholders. Mistra’s representatives, Chief Executive Åke Iverfeldt and Programmes Director Thomas Nilsson, who jointly held a lab with two sessions on climate change.

‘It was an extremely interesting conference, with rewarding discussions about climate policy. It was an opportunity for us both to show Mistra’s presence and to get an understanding of which issues are being discussed internationally in the climate area. That’s essential, not least for future research initiatives,’ says Nilsson.

‘During the conference it emerged that China is reporting a fall in the use of coal, but that it’s unclear whether this is linked to reduced emissions overall. Along with China’s and the USA’s climate agreement at year-end 2014, it nonetheless inspires some hope.

‘One trend is that we’re moving towards a bottom-up process in which there are many different initiatives, and where rich countries are obliged to listen better to developing countries, their prospects and also their needs for reasonable economic development.

New solutions possible

This is opening the way to bilateral climate agreements, and for regions in the EU to be able to take the lead by being the cutting edge and setting a good example.

‘This calls for another type of knowledge, about how to find solutions for moving forward. It gives a signal ahead of the COP21 meeting in Paris in December 2015,’ says Thomas Nilsson.

One of those taking part was Carolyn Fischer, a climate researcher at the Washington DC-based think tank Resources for the Future, who is funded by Mistra. She presented figures indicating that EU emissions trading has not impaired competitiveness.

‘But what surprised us most was a show of hands in the full lecture hall. It showed that hardly anyone believes that the EU will raise carbon prices to the level needed for us to get away from the use of coal,’ Fischer says.

Security issues important

One important topic at the conference was security policy. There are many connections with energy supply, environment, security in the Arctic and conflicts surrounding resources and raw materials — subjects within Mistra’s radar. However, Thomas Nilsson finds that when there are conflicts under way in the world the focus is often diverted from environmental issues.

Hanging over the discussions was the threat from an increasingly aggressive Russia, which has hastened the process towards an energy union in the EU. A union of this kind may also, at best, result in a more rapid switch to renewable energy. Other issues discussed concerned agriculture and food: here, questions of genetic modification, food security and food supply at a global level were raised. These issues too interest Mistra.

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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