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The Way Forward

E3G over the next 10 years

2014 marked E3G's 10th Anniversary. 'The Way Forward' is an excerpt from a speech E3G's CEO and Founding Director, Nick Mabey gave at our 10th Anniversary celebration which sets out the direction for E3G over the next 10 years.  

The Way Forward

E3G has a secret. The secret is that 10 years ago we had a planned out what we wanted to achieve. A plan we hid in plain sight as the “Europe in the World” pamphlet.

We translated the plan into 10 languages – including Russian and Turkish – so no–one could miss what our real intent was.

The plan was driven by our belief that if we don’t solve the political dilemma of sustainable development we risk unravelling the post-war progress on democracy, development, human rights and peace. The result would be a world where raw power successfully pushes back against the rule of law.

E3G’s mission is at its heart an attempt to preserve these values in a world of 10 billion people living on a finite planet.

E3G is a European organisation and we saw Europe as a pathfinder for global sustainable development. Not because Europe is uniquely enlightened, but because Europe has learnt the hard lessons from bloody conflict on the need to put limits on power and gain the benefits of pooling sovereignty.

For the last ten years E3G has been working to put the choices we outlined in Europe in the World in front of decision makers, and in building the political coalitions needed to deliver real outcomes.

It hasn’t gone exactly as we planned, but more progress has been made than many thought possible at the time.

But since then many things have changed. Some we expected like the continuing rise of China, others were surprises like the global financial crisis.

But most fundamental to E3G’s mission has been the general decline in belief that governing institutions can shape events - either at national or international level. This decline in “agency” affects elites as much as the general public. It has lead to a rise in populism and authoritarianism, and in many places to a profound despair that anything can change for the better.

Sustainable development cannot be built on this political foundation.

Inside E3G we have been reflecting on what these changes mean for our mission and for us as an organisation. We have also been talking with others around the world grappling with the same dilemmas.

We have come to four main propositions about the future we must respond to. These result as much from the successes of the environment movement as from its deficiencies:

  • Arguments will be easier but political battles will be harder

Rising climate impacts make the analytical case for change stronger, but vested interests have only just begun to take the impact of policy on their assets seriously and will push back much harder than we think.

  • Economic reforms must be deep and broad

The idea that the global energy system could be transformed from high to low carbon by just putting a marginal price on carbon has gone from fanciful to dangerous. Shifting capital to the right investments will require fundamental rewiring of economic systems and the political and social economy that supports them.

  • Rules need to be defended

Shifts in geo-politics are undermining global norms and the international rules-based system cannot be taken as a given. Investment will not flow to sustainable solutions unless corruption, weak governance and democratic deficits are tackled.

  • Short-term pressures will overwhelm long-term necessities

As the impacts of climate change and resource scarcity grow attention will focus on preserving short-term security and economic interests. Creating the political space for long-term preventive investment requires managing these pressures while and ensuring fair and orderly transitions. It will also become increasingly difficult to explain what success looks like.

We will need to adapt our work to a world where our politics will be driven more by events than analysis.

On the positive side our problem will not be one of lack of access or being marginal – we can now get into the debate at all levels.

But access is not enough – even progress is not enough – we need to work out how to win fast enough.

We need to take our own arguments more seriously.

If we believe that the future is at risk we need to say this clearly and simply, and not hide behind technical caveats. We need to be comfortable making both the moral and the scientific case for action.

If we want to change the fundamental way society functions we need to invest in driving changes over the long term and not demand short term wins.

If we want to win political choices we need to make sustainability an unavoidable objective for all political families, no matter how different their objectives and solutions. This requires us to embrace democratic pluralism.

E3G will do its part in responding to these challenges.

E3G will continue to do much of what it currently does - getting the right people, in the right place at the right time with the right choices in the right context.

We will also keep investing in making Europe a driver for global sustainable development.

Though it is unfashionable to back Europe as a global player, there is still no other actor with the reach and intent to support the necessary global transformations. As Europeans we also have a moral duty to do this.

We will deepen our work on making Europe an innovator of sustainable solutions; focusing on areas requiring deep economic, financial and governance reform. We will work to make European diplomacy maximise its influence in a more multi-polar but less multilateral world.

We will also work with others to keep the UK inside the EU, because without this Europe is much less likely to pursue a global vocation.

We will invest more in re-shaping the political landscape for action.

Unless we shape the “realm of discourse” beyond the news cycle we will have no chance of shaping politics to support sustainable policies. E3G is already investing more in shaping the public debate and working with others to generate more compelling narratives on climate change.

Cities are the main source of wealth creation, but have fixed assets exposed to climate risk and little agency in shaping the national mitigation responses. We will work to bring cities and other “climate takers” into the political debate on mitigation as force for radical action.

We will work to bring new, powerful actors into the climate change debate by providing strategic analysis and political advice on how they can engage. We are doing this around the EU 2030 Climate and Energy package, and as a founder member of the new Climate Briefing Services network will expand this work internationally in the run-up to Paris 2015.

We will work to build larger coalitions for deeper reform.

The Energy Bill Revolution campaign brings together 200 organisations to argue for £65 billion of public investment in super-insulating UK homes, focusing on the fuel poor. This campaign aims to deliver healthier, warmer and lower carbon homes; many objectives not just one.

We will build more multi-objective coalitions because the political and economic reforms we need are too deep to be won through an environmental agenda alone.

E3G will step up its work with the national security and peace-building communities to make preventative action – including against climate and resource risks - a core pillar of forward security policy.

We will continue working with mainstream foreign policy actors to strengthen the national interest case and diplomacy for maintaining a global rules-based system.

We will work with new alliances and blocs of countries who champion this agenda.

Finance reform is at heart of re-engineering the economy. E3G will move from a focus on clean finance instruments to building coalitions which can shape macro-economic management and broader financial reforms, including financial stability reforms which can address the “carbon bubble”. 

We will work to integrate climate and resource risks into the heart of economic decision making, and help shape a new social contract which informs, empowers and protects those exposed to unmanageable climate impacts.

Decarbonisation plans have failed to provide politically-credible solutions for industry and infrastructure.  We will work to create coalitions for driving radical industrial transformation and growth through the deployment of smart, resilient, integrated and clean infrastructure.

Recently we have seen a rising tide of repressive state action taken against environmental campaigners in countries as diverse as Poland, Turkey, India and China. Without an open society we cannot win, and the open society is under threat in many places. We will work with other groups and governments to push back against this closing of political freedoms, and put climate change and sustainability at the heart of global discussions on good governance.

Collectively we have won the argument. We now need to organise the wide but too often latent support in favour of a sustainable and secure future into political change.

We founded E3G to help make the transformation possible. That’s what we intend to do – in new ways and with more diverse partners.

We look forward to working with all of you to achieve our common goals.

And hopefully in 10 years time we can all come back here for another party in a more peaceful, stable and better world.


The full speech given by Nick Mabey, E3G CEO and Founding Director is available here.  

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