Polemics Coverage of the Dialogue of Continents Conference, organized by the Reinventing Bretton Woods Committee, December 4-5, 2023.

The last panel of the conference was entitled, “An International Financial System for All?” and focused on climate security, resilience, and the changing nature of global cooperation, especially in the face of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine and the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The moderator, Franz Nauschnigg, the former Head of European Affairs at the Österreichische Nationalbank (ÖNB), led the discussion.

Livio Stracca, the Deputy Director of General Financial Stability for the European Central Bank (ECB) began the discussion by identifying what he views as key issues within the broader debate of enhancing international climate cooperation. This primarily included the issue that fossil fuels continue to be produced in autocratic state systems, including those (namely, Russa) who are attacking the rules-based order and engaging in violent conflict with other countries.

Therefore, Mr. Stracca called for a re-emphasis on democratic values in the international system. He argued that democratic countries should continue to take the lead in the growth of green energy industries as well.

Christine Muttonen, the Vice President of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), expanded on Mr. Stracca’s statement by looking at the issue of climate cooperation from a security standpoint. She emphasised the delicate security situation the international system currently faces—a result of the nuclear risks that have escalated since the beginning of the Russia’s war on Ukraine. On the other hand, the current nuclear situation is distracting from other urgent issues, including climate change. To prevent the climate change issue from being put on the backburner for too long, Ms. Muttonen advocated for the participation of civil society – especially women and youth – in international decision-making processes.

Lassina Zerbo, former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso and Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, brought in his perspective as a leader from the Global South. He noted that an obstacle to successful international cooperation stems from the issue that developing countries feel that they should not have to ‘pay’ for the mistakes of richer countries that are single-handedly responsible for the climate crisis. This tension is exacerbated by the fact that international efforts to address climate change often exclude the needs of smaller developing countries. However, he proposed that the way to solve this issue is for states of the Global North to form a common approach to work with the South, in order to foster more coherent avenues for collaboration.

The panel then took a turn into discussing this issue within the European Union. Mario Holzner, the Executive Director of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, argued that the EU has fallen behind in the green transition, noting, “We are now copying industrial policy that China has been implementing [for] 10, 20 years… Europe is late, Europe was naïve.”

And because of the urgency for adaptive climate change policies, the EU must make swift, pragmatic changes. However, Mr. Fernando Nelli Feroci, the President of Instituto Affair Internazionali (IAI), claimed that EU is in fact capable of making these shifts, as exhibited by the quick transition away from Russian energy supply at the onset of the war in Ukraine. However, he argues that more work must be done in the future to increase competitiveness with China and minimize Europe’s over-reliance on the US for its security.

Although agreeing that restoration of the rules-based order may be necessary, Thomas Wieser, a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, expressed his hesitance at the thought that the international system should simply return to where it was before the order was being challenged: “I have a certain scepticism on rebooting the system and going back to where we were 20 years ago,” especially to when Europe was less integrated. Instead, he argued for continued integration in the international system and Europe in particular. This kind of coordination exemplifies a new kind of sovereignty, which allows smaller states to exert more influence in decision-making processes, thus strengthening the inclusion, accountability, and equity of international institutions in navigating international issues such as climate change.

Written and edited by Anna Riggs

Photo Credit: Lu Han