Holistic Climate Governance: What it is, why it’s needed, and how to get there

To succeed in transitioning to a more sustainable future, we need a new model to transform the entire economy, incorporating societal considerations and involving all relevant stakeholders.

Apr 23, 2024

Climate change is arguably the most urgent and persistent challenge our world is facing. But have we made enough progress to address it since the Paris Agreement pledges of 2015? We all know the answer to that.

The scale and complexity of climate emergency phenomena illustrate that these issues cannot be addressed in a fragmentary way and by national governments alone. Instead, we need a holistic governance approach that incorporates the coordination and integration of social, economic and environmental factors at the EU level.

Such a strategic governance model will require overcoming the prevailing market-based perspective of short term profits. It will also depend on enlisting all relevant stakeholders, across sectors, to reorientate the entire economy to a direction of a green growth transition, through investment and innovation.

Interdisciplinary cooperation and stakeholder involvement

To successfully address imminent and future extreme climate challenges, we need to effectively combine a compound of expertise to develop robust climate solutions. Besides incorporating science, the agendas and interests of diverse actors, from national governments and agencies, to corporations and businesses, regional and local authorities, communities, and civil groups have to be integrated into the process of setting a grand plan. Seeing their contribution included in the development of policies and the implementation of projects enhances the credibility and acceptance of the transition to this new model.

Climate resilience and adaptation 

Conducting risk assessments to foresee climate hazards, identifying weak, vulnerable spots, and amplifying rapid-response mechanisms in the face of disasters are vital for the security of European citizens. Our high preparedness should be complimented by investments in major infrastructure, such as energy grids, waste management systems, and transportation networks. Compared to the present approach of focusing on profit/shareholder value maximisation, we will have to opt for smart and ‘patient’ growth. Instead of short term gains and quantity of finance, state investment and development banks should incentivise long-term, strategic finance, focusing on quality growth.

Justice on the way forward 

It’s well known that low-income and marginalised communities are disproportionately affected by climate impacts, and this situation is expected to get worse. We must ensure that the costs of the climate transition are fairly distributed and the benefits shared equitably. Furthermore, we will need to support individuals who lose their jobs due to climate change, by offering retraining, income support, and increasing job placements related to green jobs. 

Volt’s Vision

Volt wholeheartedly advocates for a holistic climate governance approach. But how would that work in practice?

Our plan starts by putting a long-term vision of the economy at the centre, by incorporating circular economy guidelines in every facet of governance. Green innovation, climate mitigation and adaptation are becoming central principles of policy planning. The plan requires investing in (EU-harmonised) high-speed rail infrastructure, charging stations, and flood defences, via public-private partnerships and direct low-interest financing, using the capabilities of the European Investment Bank. To measure our progress, a “Green Net GDP” will be used, instead of metrics that overlook environmental degradation and social development factors.

We aim for a drastic transformation of high-carbon economies to efficient, low-to-no carbon economies that create instead of killing jobs, and further improving the living standards of European citizens. These costs will need to be funded through effective taxation of corporations and (extremely) wealthy individuals that have benefited so far through the status quo instead of low-income and middle class people.  

For those who are left behind in the process of this transition, we will prioritise re-skilling efforts and collaboration with strategic industries, alongside companies and educational institutions, urging the creation of an “EU Green Jobs Strategy”.

Our approach goes beyond mere carbon and resource pricing mechanisms. It includes phasing out fossil fuels, decarbonising the electrical grid and transportation networks, and replacing heating and cooling installations with sustainable options. Cutting subsidies for fossil fuels and unsustainable agricultural practices is part of this plan. These funds should be redirected to subsidies and incentives (eg. tax breaks and financing capital) for adopting eco-friendly alternatives, and investing in innovative industries

This approach further recognises the necessity of ending Europe’s energy dependence on other regions by encouraging and investing in the proliferation of renewable energy sources for cheap and clean energy that covers our needs. 

In the same context, Volt believes in empowering citizens to participate in energy production. By streamlining bureaucratic hurdles, offering financing, and creating a European Smart Energy Grid, we can incentivise energy production through citizens’ energy communities at a pan-European level. Along with large-scale green energy sources (solar and wind parks, hydropower and nuclear plants), we can ensure the energy security of Europe, power up the industry, and safeguard ordinary people from high energy costs. 

The way forward

As we confront the urgent issue of climate change, holistic governance offers a roadmap for action. By embracing principles of collaboration, equity, and resilience, Volt is charting a course towards a sustainable and prosperous future for all. 

However, we cannot expect the markets to turn towards a green direction by themselves. Governments and the EU have a pivotal role to play in this transformational procedure by investing in, coordinating, regulating and setting goals to pivot to a green economy. The transition to sustainable growth constitutes a challenge, but also an opportunity for the EU to assume a leadership role in this new, emerging world. 

Article by Pavlos Ferlachidis