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Campaign launched to follow Wales and appoint EU commissioner for future generations

19 May 2024 5 minute read
Alberto Alemanno, founder of the Good Lobby. Photo Fondazione Giannino Bassetti is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Luke James, Brussels

An influential Brussels lobby group is leading a campaign for the European Union to secure its increasingly contested climate policies by following Wales in appointing a commissioner for future generations.

The Good Lobby, which advocates on behalf of charities and NGOs in the EU capital, is part of a coalition calling for the next European Commission to include a vice-president for future generations.

Wales became the first country in the world to put the rights of future generations into law in 2015 and, a year later, created a commissioner to oversee the law’s implementation.

Good Lobby founder Alberto Alemanno told Nation.Cymru that “the Welsh commissioner has been and remains one of the major sources of inspiration” for the new campaign.

The campaign comes amid a backlash against the EU’s climate strategy.

The European Green Deal was the flagship policy of the current European Commission when it began its work under German conservative Ursula von der Leyen in 2019.

Growing anger

But five years later, the European elections will take place next month against a background of growing anger with green regulations that has seen farmers blockade the roads of Brussels with tractors.

With legislation delayed or watered down, von der Leyen is being accused of retreating from her early climate ambition.

Alemanno, a law professor at the HEC Paris business school, says this is an example of the “short-termism” in EU policy making that a future generations commissioner could help to solve.

“We have been seeing the ability of the farmers to capture the immigration of the political leaders, to extract major concessions that are directly affecting future generations,” said Alemanno at the launch of the campaign.

“There was a political commitment to green the European economy. Well, that commitment is no longer there. There was a commitment to no longer use pesticides to the same extent. Those commitments vanished in a matter of a few hours.

“How credible a political system can it be if it’s not able to balance the maximisation of the welfare of future generations with the needs of the present? This is the challenge.”

Traction

The concept of future generations legislation has gradually gained traction since being adopted in Wales.

Similar policies have been introduced in New Zealand, Finland, Ireland, Scotland and the Balearic Islands.

The United Nations is set to appoint an envoy for future generations following a summit held in Cardiff last month.

And the Welsh Government has actively pushed the idea in EU circles, with former First Minister Mark Drakeford giving a speech on the policy during his St David’s Day visit to Brussels last year.

“The world needs more countries and international institutions like the European Commission to legislate in the interests of future generations and adopt robust long-term governance mechanisms,” said Derek Walker, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.

“Halting the climate emergency and restoring nature, and transitioning to a well-being economy cannot be done in isolation.

“Ensuring that we improve lives and leave behind a liveable planet for our children, grandchildren and those not yet born will require an urgent global effort to act now for a better tomorrow.”

References to future generations are found in the European election manifestos of the majority of the EU-wide parties contesting them.

‘New pact’

The manifesto of the European People’s Party, which is the largest in the European Parliament, calls for a “new pact for intergenerational fairness, making sure our choices today do not burden the generations of tomorrow.”

The Socialist say they will “continue making future generations a priority” and the Greens say “legislative impact assessments should systematically include young people.”

However, the Good Lobby says the parties’ promises are not backed up with policy.

“Will these aspirations materialise into effective change? Our research findings suggest that the scant proposals and tools outlined lack specificity and may not be sufficient,” said the group.

There is already a crowded field of possible new portfolio titles for the next Commission, with von der Leyen’s centre-right EPP promising to create specific roles for defence and fisheries, according to Politico Europe.

The results of the European elections could also set back the campaign.

The Socialists, Greens, Liberals and EPP are all expected to lose seats while the far-right is set to achieve its best ever result, according to a projection by Europe Elects published this week.

While Wales’ approach has won international praise, it has also come in for criticism at home.

Former commissioner Sophie Howe was accused of hypocrisy last year after a freedom of information request revealed she had flown over 160,000 miles in five years despite advocating for green taxes on frequent flyers.

The authors of ‘The Welsh Way: Essays on Neoliberalism and Devolution’ described the policy as a “piece of potentially useful legislation handed to a powerless Labour insider and rendered completely useless.”

Read more: Welsh farmers consider action as protests erupt across Europe


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
15 days ago

Apparently 25% of the next generation aren’t getting enough to eat in Cymru, start there…

Why vote
Why vote
15 days ago

Another foreign lobby group whose end aim is admirable with no tangible concepts of how to achieve them without sending any nation back to the dark ages. The EV market has collapsed, the electricity infrastructure is nowhere near capable of supporting requirements for future generations without some pollution to the atmosphere, all of our green energy production will soon be exported to a foreign land through foreign companies probably without paying taxes here for the privilege, transport infrastructure is nonexistent incapable of supporting requirements of today let alone the next generation, there are 3.5million people in wales and we still… Read more »

Adrian Bamford
Adrian Bamford
15 days ago

EU referendum 2016:
Stay 48%. Leave 52%. ‘Leave’ majority 4%. Turnout 72%…hotly contested.

Welsh devolution referendum 1997.
No 49.7%. Yes 50.3%. ‘Yes’ majority 0.6%. Turnout 50%…stunning victory.

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