Applying Common Cause To EU Climate Jargon

This is a post from Eivind Hoff, who has been bringing together Common Cause conversations in Brussels.

What values do typical texts on EU climate change-motivated policy activate and how can we change them? That was the focus of the second Common Cause Brussels meeting on 7 March.

Most of us working with EU affairs in Brussels draft and edit texts trying to convince policy-makers to do this or that. At our meeting, we took one such draft text I had received that called for ambitious EU policies for decarbonising the power sector. What had struck me was how such texts – even with the most climate-friendly intentions – are permeated by appeals to “competitiveness”, “economic growth” and “energy security”.

It is quite obvious how these terms reflect power, achievement and security values – rather the opposite of the universalist values that need to be strengthened. So far, the way I have personally dealt with this is to replace meaningless and unhelpful words like “European competitiveness” (any economist will tell you that it is non-sense because floating exchange rates ensure that no currency zone has a permanent balance of payments surplus with other currency zones) or “energy security” (everybody seems to have their own interpretation of it) with more concrete and neutral words like “European prosperity/jobs” and “diverse energy supply”.

Such linguistic cleaning up or “de-mainstreaming” of unhelpful frames is one thing. But our discussion turned to the glaring gap in such climate-minded texts: Explanations of why we want to reduce emissions. Generally, the texts we deal with just refer to political goals like “80-95% emission reduction in the EU by 2050” as if it were an end in itself to comply with such political pledges. By not explaining why emission reductions are essential, we abstain from making appeals to universalist values like justice and equity for poorer countries, future generations and other species.

That will be one of the next things to try out, before our next meeting – due in the week of 9 April. Drop me a line if interested in joining!

Eivind Hoff –

Casper ter KuileApplying Common Cause To EU Climate Jargon

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