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Ouverture to the European Forum Alpbach

Verena Ringler’s guest commentary in the quality daily newspaper, Wiener Zeitung zooms in on the international dynamics of the green transition theme.

Under the headline, “Heroes of perseverance”, Verena looks at what she sees as a certain momentum on leadership level in Europe and the U.S. as far as the urgency, importance and necessity of the green transition is concerned. More and more senior, eminent leaders and decision-makers recognize “that the shape and dimension of decarbonising the economic cycle and consistently protecting nature and resources or restoring ecosystems are of a sui generis quality; of an exuberant urgency on the time axis, of a uniqueness on the action axis.”

Verena looks at four important steps that happened in July and August 2022: 

  1. The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on July 28, 2022, to declare the ability to live in “a clean, healthy and sustainable environment” a universal human right.
  • Josef Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs High Representative, announced that the EU would open an office in San Francisco in a quest to strengthen the bloc’s “digital diplomacy.” The office near Silicon Valley should help to identify the potential regulatory requirements and consequences of the tech economy at an early stage. The relevance for climate diplomacy? The step shows that EU diplomacy is ready now to add thematic diplomacy to what has hitherto been mostly state-to-state diplomacy. Thus, digital diplomacy can act as possible forerunners for a courageous EU climate and ecological diplomacy of tomorrow. 
  • In U.S. Congress in late July, democratic Senator Joe Manchin of Virgina finally dropped his opposition to U.S. President Biden’s multi-billion dollar climate package. The package calls for nearly $400 billion to be spent on energy transition and other climate action by 2030. 
  • At the end of July, Rajiv J. Shah, the chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, published the new strategy of the foundations, writing that “The Foundation will put climate at the forefront of our programmatic, operational and investment strategies.” The move is highly symbolic, coming as it does from one of the largest foundations in the US, and one that was founded by oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Sr. and had become wealthy through the extraction of oil. 

Verena concludes that these four events are small but essential steps in the historical and global political context: “they are all concrete. They are reminders of the need for international cooperation. But most importantly, they represent the result of an active struggle within organisations and groups. The four decisions illustrate how indispensable the determined, professional and detailed negotiation of conflicts remains, how worthwhile the persistent drilling of thick boards vis-à-vis leaderships levels, boards, and committees.” The four breakthroughs, according to Verena, thus draw attention to the thousands of “intrapreneurs”, i.e. the hands-on forward-looking people in existing structures, whether politics and administration, private or civil society. And this focus is what Verena sees as a nice “overture for the European Forum Alpbach”, which brings together hundreds of shapers and doers in the Austrian Alps every August.