Elections in Europe Reveal Need to Reclaim Energy, Say Public Sector Unions 
June 28, 2024
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Elections in Europe Reveal Need to Reclaim Energy, Say Public Sector Unions 

Bucharest, June 18th-20th 2024

The European Union’s (EU) status as a “climate leader” is in grave danger. EU leaders want Europe to be the first carbon neutral continent, but the results of June 2024 elections suggest that the current approach to addressing climate change is losing popular support. 

Organized as the European Public Service Union (EPSU) the continent’s public service unions met last week (June 18th - 20th) for a Congress in Bucharest, Romania. High on the agenda of the 500-person gathering was the election outcomes and the importance of rescuing the EU’s ambitious climate commitments embodied in the 2019 European Green Deal.

Opinion polls show that the EU’s 450 million citizens remain very concerned about climate change, but high energy prices have fueled a right wing narrative that green policies merely benefit the rich, compromise energy security, and undermine the EU’s competitiveness. With the right now strengthened, the new EU parliament is expected to pressure the European Commission to ditch many of its decarbonization plans. 

Time for Public Energy 

At the EPSU Congress, calls for reclaiming energy to public ownership resonated among delegates. Bas Weegberg from FNV Netherlands said, “Our planet is on fire and public service workers are facing the heat. The market is not going to save us. We need a #PublicPathway to effectively tackle climate change.” Muriel Marcilloux, from Fédération Nationale des Mines et de l'Énergie (CGT-FNME, France) added, “Protecting the climate is a priority for the future of humanity. That's why the integration of socially responsible environmental objectives is essential, particularly for any industrial project.” In a proposed amendment to a Congress resolution on energy, CGT-FNME urged unions not to discriminate against nuclear power or hydropower. Formulations like “green energy” and “renewable energy” should be replaced by “low-carbon energies” or “decarbonized energy” which would be much more inclusive and would accommodate energies that are “essential to the energy transition.” The amendment, however, was unsuccessful. 

New TUED Report Calls for Power Sector Reform, No More “De-Risking” 

At a fringe meeting in Bucharest on June 19th organized by the Brussels office of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS), unions discussed the contents of a soon to be released TUED report that offers a detailed assessment of the failures of EU’s neoliberal-inspired approach to energy transition. Titled Beyond the European Union’s Electricity Market Reform: Mapping a Public Pathway for the Energy Transition the RLS-supported report explains how Europe’s energy transition has been sabotaged by for-profit interests. Tuscany Bell, EPSU’s policy staff member responsible for public utilities, said that the report “provides a detailed diagnosis of the problems facing Europe’s transition, and offers a number of well thought out solutions that are anchored in reclaiming energy to public ownership.”  

John Maloney, Assistant General Secretary of the UK’s Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said that the problems identified in the report were visible in the UK, and the Labour Party’s election manifesto is unclear in terms of what to do about it. 

TUED Coordinator Sean Sweeney said that “the EU’s plans to get to “net zero” emissions by transferring unlimited amounts of public money into the hands of private investors and developers is playing into the hands of the political right.” He urged unions to commit to the public pathway approach to energy transition, noting that “The EPSU Congress has expressed its support for public ownership. The report shows how Member States can reclaim energy and redefine what it means for the EU show ‘climate leadership.’ The report did not just fall out of the sky; TUED unions and policy allies had considerable input.” He described the report as “detailed and empirically solid—which what the situation demands.”  

The TUED report, Beyond the European Union’s Electricity Market Reform: Mapping a Public Pathway for the Energy Transition, will be available by early August, 2024 and will be published by RLS’ Brussels Office. 

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