Narratives, Climate and the Future
Genome editing, artificial agriculture, robotics, AI are just some of the technologies that have a significant impact on our society: science and technology have profoundly influenced our society, and this influence is still growing. By drastically changing our means of communication, the way we work, our housing, clothes, and food, our methods of transportation, and, indeed, even the length and quality of life itself, science has not only changed the way we live, but it is also challenging the moral values and traditional way of organising society. What would a political framework for new technologies in the 21st century look like? One thing is clear: the role of science and innovation is to contribute to finding solutions to some of the most pressing problems.
In December 2019, President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her vision for a European Green Deal, announcing the Commission’s commitment to tackling climate and environmental-related challenges, describing it as “this generation’s defining task”. The battle for a new model of environmentally sustainable growth has become existential. Europe is still in the early stages of a deep transformation in energy, industrial and agricultural processes: reaching a climate-neutral economy by 2050 is feasible from a technological perspective, but it requires profound societal and economic changes to be achieved within a generation. Success will require a reduction in emissions from current levels to a neutral balance over the next few decades while continuing to deliver the needed energy at affordable costs.
Well designed and deployed policies can significantly facilitate the development of new approaches, mindsets and behaviours at any level, from multinational companies to individual citizens. Quality of the scientific evidence used in any decision-making process has an impact on the legitimacy and transparency of decisions and thus on the support of citizens to the legislative measures that may result: ensuring an optimal regulatory framework to foster innovation and ultimately improve overall societal wellbeing is crucial at all stages of the innovation cycle, from research and development to diffusion, commercialisation, uptake, and beyond. The European Green Deal will require institutions, entrepreneurs, scientists and innovators to join forces and create the conditions to counter climate change and environmental pollution. If implemented correctly, it will not only be a catalyst to transform Europe’s economy into a sustainable and climate-neutral model but could also ensure that Europe leads the technology revolution and become a global leader in clean technologies and solutions.
In recent years, the need for a stronger nexus between the worlds of science and policy has been identified, but there is still much to learn about how to translate effectively between these two worlds. In launching the Green Deal, the European Commission opened the way to a new, sustainable model of growth for Europe, with the aim of being the first mover towards a fair and prosperous society that responds to the challenges posed by climate change and environmental degradation, improving the quality of life of current and future generations. The involvement and commitment of the public and of all stakeholders is crucial: science and innovation must have a driving role both in accelerating the contribution of new technologies to tackle these issues and in guiding the public discourse in favour of more sustainable lifestyles and businesses.
We thank Mr Carlos Moedas for agreeing to Chair this taskforce
CHAIR: Carlos Moedas, Former European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation