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Speakers corner 15 February 2021

A rapidly evolving context calls EERA to step up its role

Dear Readers,

I hope you are doing well in these challenging and uncertain times.

Since we last wrote to you in December, so much has happened.

Talking about Brexit, Michel Barnier, EU Chief Brexit Negotiator, reminded us last week: If Brexit is a divorce, with little -if any- positive about it, the EU and the UK must now cooperate in this new framework, in the best way they can, for the sake of their own interest. And as we speak, negotiations that should confirm the conditions for the UK to be associated to the new Framework Programme, Horizon Europe, are underway. This should also confirm the strongly hoped continuity of our research collaboration with our UK colleagues within the EERA community.

On another front, the first days in office of President Joe Biden clearly announced a new era for multilateralism and the big return of Geopolitics. It also marked the immediate return of the US to the Paris Climate Agreement. This major political reversal is of critical significance as it comes at an ultimate moment for human society to strongly curb downwards its global emissions, for any chance of keeping global warming within manageable limits.

Finally, the gigantic size of Covid-debt will mark two other historical societal transformations. First, citizens across EU now realize that, contrary to their past belief, hundreds of billions of Euros can be mobilized almost with a snap of the fingers when absolutely required. Second, the size of the economic disruption is such that it challenges the strongest taboos of economic orthodoxy, pushing even some of the hawkish eurozone governments to reconsider eurozone stability measures and its very architecture.  At the same time, alternatives on the handling of the public debt, that were still unthinkable a few months ago, are now on the table for open discussion.

In our quest towards climate neutrality, these changes are of key significance.

If the Covid pandemic has been temporarily “stealing the show” from the wider climate crisis, it is profoundly and durably changing citizens perceptions, government priorities and mandate, and therefore the architecture of our society. While restating the fundamental role of governments, EU and national, it might also pave the way to allow massively funded collaborative action across the Union. If, as anticipated, the Covid crisis can be kept in check in the coming months, let us hope that the EU will emerge politically stronger and armed with new financial instruments that will eventually enable it to boldly deliver its long-term vision.

As EERA, it will be our mission to provide an even more ambitious framework for increased pan-European research collaboration on strategic energy technologies and transition issues. It will be EERA’s moment to step up as the authoritative advisor to the EU, providing scientifically backed evidence on conditions and pathways to achieve the vision of becoming the first climate neutral and fair society by 2050. These are at the core of the new strategic initiatives that EERA will unveil throughout 2021.

With sincere regards,

Stay safe!

Adel El Gammal 
EERA Secretary General