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Managing the energy and food crises: Exceptional times call for exceptional measures

Annika Hedberg

Date: 20/07/2022
The Russian war on Ukraine is an unprecedented test for the EU and its leaders. On top of the security, humanitarian and refugee crises, they must manage its impact on our economy and energy and food systems. With prices soaring and supply chains disrupted, they must respond to the cost-of-living crisis.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures, including in how we produce and consume energy and food. This Discussion Paper identifies priorities for action to prevent the energy and food crises from spiralling out of control and to enhance European resilience, sustainability and prosperity.

1. EU leaders must adopt a wartime mindset in their communication and actions.

EU leaders must level with their people and explain that ending the war, achieving peace and ensuring European prosperity require short-term sacrifices, which are manageable. If Europe fails to take the necessary measures now, including on energy and food, this will only prolong the pain and lead to devastating consequences for our society and economy.

2. EU leaders must accelerate the greening of our energy and food systems.

The EU and its member states must ensure that energy and food systems enhance Europe’s security, well-being and prosperity in both the short and long term. When combining the economic, political, geopolitical, security, societal, moral and planetary considerations, it is evident that the European Green Deal provides a compelling basis and guidance for the needed measures.

As an immediate measure, the EU and its member states must encourage and, where needed, impose measures to improve energy and food consumption and to avoid unnecessary waste. In the short to medium term, the EU must stop supporting and subsidising harmful and costly practices for our society, economy and the planet.

3. EU leaders must collaborate and ensure solidarity across borders and society.

The war, including its implications for the energy and food systems, affects everyone in Europe. Mechanisms supporting the vulnerable, including low-income households, must be established now. Managing the energy and food crises will require tough political decisions, including trade-offs and measures that will inevitably upset some people and businesses. The EU desperately needs leaders who recognise the importance of collaboration, unity and solidarity while taking the necessary measures to reach the shared goals of stability, security and prosperity.

Functioning energy and food systems are vital for our well-being and, ultimately, survival. And as they play a central role in driving the planetary crisis, from climate change to environmental degradation, what is done in these sectors has direct implications for the prospects for people, businesses and the planet. Thus, this is not the time for short-sighted decisions. The measures taken today must not lead to future regrets.

EU leaders are now being tested for their courage to do the right thing. They are being tested for their willingness and capacity to implement needed measures. In other words, they are being tested for their ability to lead. EU leaders will be judged not only for past mistakes but also the measures they take to correct these missteps. They will be judged on not just the immediate results of their actions but also the legacy they leave behind.

Read the full paper here.
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