Since the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent “Great Recession,” governments have mostly scaled back or de-emphasized their climate protection and “green” commitments. Lack of public funds and concerns about growth, competitiveness, and unemployment are frequently cited as explanations for this apparent loss of both ambition and urgency. The “green growth” narrative that colored various counter-cyclical “stimulus” spending packages from 2009-10 has been largely abandoned. This in turn has slowed the deployment of renewable energy and thrown the UN climate negotiations into paralysis. During the recent talks in Lima (COP 20) it became clear that a global climate agreement seems very unlikely to emerge from the “deadline COP” in Paris in late 2015.
The goal of this paper is to show how economic crisis and austerity, which today serves as the perfect cover for inaction and reversals on climate protection and ecological sustainability, could actually spur a radical departure from the slow and stuttering progress of the recent past. The paper looks at the opportunities for such a departure in Greece, a country mired in debt, high unemployment, and on the receiving end of a full-blown austerity program. But Greece is also a country where the radical Left could soon be in power led by a party, SYRIZA, that’s committed to nothing less than the “ecological transformation of the economy.”
But how can such a transformation be carried out? How can a country like Greece — facing enormous challenges — be an ecological leader and perhaps an exemplar for a new course? Can a SYRIZA or SYRIZA-led government break new ground in terms of fusing a viable left-green project in the face of crushing odds?
Download the full paper here.