pro Europe - Austrian Embassy Series: Communicating Sustainability. A good reason for more Europe?
Emil Brix, Ambassador of the Republic of Austria to the United Kingdom, London
Jacqueline Minor, Head of European Commission Representation in the UK, London
Stefan Windberger, Sustainable Future Campaign, Vienna/London
Klaus Tritscher, Senior Expert Renewable Energy & Environmental Technology, Vienna
Friday, 14 June 2013, 12:30-14:00 pm
Residence of the Austrian Ambassador
18 Belgrave Square, LONDON SW1X 8PX
Sustainability is a key word in most of today’s political, economical, social and environmental debates. Today’s globalised world has to deal with several major challenges: the financial and economic crisis threatens to damage the European project, climate change already has severe implications for millions of people, rapid economic development in some parts of the world increases the pressure on scarce resources, and old political realities crumble as people demand more democracy.
The discussion was chaired by Austrian Ambassador Emil Brix. In his opening remarks Ambassador Brix stressed that the European Union should be a champion of sustainability as living in a sustainable way is one of the most important issues today. Jacqueline Minor said that sustainability needs to be addressed at the EU level because pollution, energy consumption, food and agriculture etc. do not know borders. Sustainability could also be one possibility to re-vitalise public interest in the EU itself. After all, there have to be positive messages from the EU after the end of austerity. Therefore, sustainability can stimulate optimism and should be part of the European vision. Stefan Windberger presented fascinating examples of sustainability and new “social businesses”. The European Union still has to develop a strong legal framework for social business, especially to secure access to finance. In that regard, the system of microcredits as developed by Muhammad Yunus in 1983 could be a viable solution, particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Klaus Tritscher gave some insights into renewable energy. He underlined that one must have “sustainable souls” in order to create a sustainable culture. Mr Tritscher showed that Europe has the most PV (photovoltaic) capacities in the world but no TOP PV producers (any more). All EU member states tried different trial and error approaches to PV; some were more successful (Germany) than others (like Czech Republic) and most of them showed no interest in learning from each other. The financial crisis destroyed high subsidies (feed-in-tarifs) for the solar industry. Europe facilitated the evolution of a very sustainable technology – but lacks sustainability in its implementation. PV is one of the best technologies for off-grid solutions and the technology became more affordable for developing countries in recent years (cheaper solar modules, no fuel costs).