Multi-Stakeholder-Workshops for sustainable investments in Europe

The European Growth Initiative organises regular Multi-Stakeholder-Workshops to discuss possible solutions for the promotion of is sustainable, citizen-focused and climate as well as environmentally aware growth in the European Union.

[+] Kick-Off Workshop "European Growth Initiative" | May 29, 2015

The kick-off workshop of the European Growth Initiative brought together representatives from municipalities with challenges and municipalities with good practice examples in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy and working conditions. Most communities will be heavily effected through the framework of the European energy transition, for example through economic changes. Most communities are in need to develop smart energy solutions and new business models to create new jobs (e.g. former coal mining areas).

The workshop was split into three sessions: 1. Crisis and its Dilemmas, 2. Good Practices towards the “Energiewende” and 3. Doing the Energy Transformation.

Each session highlighted theoretical and practical aspects of the implemented energy transition policies in EU.

The first session Crisis and its Dilemmas set the theoretical framework for the discussion. The session also touched on the possible benefits for the local labor markets and economies when investments in renewable energies are promoted. The second session Good Practices towards the “Energiewende” featured successful initiatives on the national or local scale. For the third session Doing the Energy Transformation the participants were divided into national groups. These groups were tasked with identifying concrete action steps for fostering green and affordable energy concepts in their particular regional contexts. The results were discussed in the plenum, with inspiring results, such as:

  1. regional multi-stakeholder roundtables: in different cities roundtables should be organized to help facilitate independent citizen debate on energy
    transition at the municipal level
  2. Networking between customers and companies: Bringing together potenital local customers with “green energy” business will create a network that helps
    the development of the communities;
  3. multiplying the benefits of local investments: By relying on local workforce resources and existing production infrastructure instead of depending on
    global supply chains and importing products or materials.

Identified barriers for a successful implementation of investments in renewable energy sources or energy efficiency

  • The location and scale of investments in renewable energy sources are often too capital and business-oriented and furthermore based on non-
    democratic decision-making.
    They focus too little on improving the situation of the local communities by such measures as complementing local
    industries and/or adding to the development of local jobs and infrastructure.
  • The financing mechanisms for municipal level investments are unclear and unstable. They depend on budgetary perspectives of structural
    funds or commercial sources of capital.
  • Problems of governance result from a centralization of decision-making. Municipalities and civil society actors do not have the
    capacity to influence central decision-makers such as governments or respective ministries.
  • The debate on energy transition is biased and unclear. Facts and figures in favour of renewable energy are often challenged by
    lobbying of the conventional energy sector. This creates basic obstacles for the general public to understand the logic of the energy transition and
    distinguish between the costs and benefits of various energy policy paradigms.
[+] Workshop "Trialogs - for sustainable investment ideas in Europe" | January 27, 2016 in Brussels

The workshop focused on the role of multi-stakeholder participation in decision-making processes in European investment policies. The workshop discussed Jean-Claude Juncker’s Investment Plan and asked two fundamental questions: How will the plan translate to the challenges faced by the European regions and municipalities? And what investments are necessary to swiftly reduce unemployment and produce sustainable economic and social progress at the local level?

The key findings towards answering these questions were:

  • Investment plans that complement current European initiatives, such as mitigation plans and additional resources without fiscal constraints bring growth to the local level and lead to a more equal and accurate distribution of the European investment policy’s effects.
  • Investment plans focus mostly on infrastructural programs and neglect the social sphere. It is important to stress here that economic growth only brings change when it is accompanied by social progress and inclusion policies, in terms of gender, age or migrant background. Every infrastructural investment has social impact. Therefore, the importance of maximizing social benefits and multiplying the positive influence of the investments undertaken for the local communities cannot be stressed enough.
  • A just transition is necessary in the de-carbonization of the economy in favour of renewable energy sources. The risk of structural mismatches in industrial and energy reorganization have to be avoided to successfully meet the European Union’s climate and environmental goals.
  • Investments at the local level and meeting the local needs, are key in this process. Such incentives have to be consistent and free from political shifts and rapid changes at the national level – like in Greece when it was struck by the crisis or in Poland when the government changed rapidly.

The workshop was facilitated by Sanjeev Kumar, the founder of Change Partnership and Matthieu Méaulle, representing European Trade Union Confederation). The event was organized by the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform and SOLIDAR, in partnership with the Foundation for European Progressive Studies.