'Rioting' farmers and the importance of engagement
(Photo by Kakoula10 on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY SA 4.0)

'Rioting' farmers and the importance of engagement

A Vox article caught our eye this week titled 'How rioting farmers unraveled Europe's ambitious climate plan.'

The article discusses the ongoing conflict between farmers in the European Union (EU) and the EU's efforts to implement environmental regulations through initiatives like the Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy. Despite being a relatively small sector economically, the agricultural industry in the EU wields significant political influence due to its ability to mobilise protests and its historical status as a recipient of generous subsidies and protectionist policies.

Farmers perceive environmental regulations as a threat to their livelihoods and an overreach of government control and have staged protests across Europe involving tactics like blockading roads with tractors and dumping manure on city streets.

The author argues that the EU's long-standing policies of subsidising and protecting the agricultural industry, originally intended to ensure food security and support rural economies, have created a powerful lobby that opposes necessary reforms. The protests have effectively stalled or weakened key aspects of the Green Deal, with politicians buckling under pressure from the agricultural lobby and concerns about right-wing populist gains in upcoming elections.

The bottom line is that 'rioting farmers' have made politicians shift position. Voters matter. How different interest groups are engaged can be key to broader reforms. Interesting to note, as the author does, that the February 2021 decision to remove red meat from school menus was actually a socially distancing driven measure (prepare one hot meal that all can eat reduces people mixing). The December 2023 proposed cut to diesel subsidies in Germany were really driven by the country's budgetary crisis rather than environmental regulations.

This point got us thinking laterally to other examples such as the built environment.

The built environment is an integral part of societal existence and an important sustainability theme. As well as forward looking new construction and design, there are solutions to improve the environmental impact of existing infrastructure, through retrofitting. However, affected individuals, particularly in residential and SME, need to clearly understand all of the dynamics involved before they can make a decision to retrofit.

Language is important...

For example with home heating / cooling, if you try to persuade people to adopt new technologies with the promise that you would reduce their carbon emissions, you may get a varied response. However, if you instead promised it would reduce their cost to keep their homes at a comfortable temperature, I suspect, all things being equal, you would get consensus on that (and as an aside, we can reduce your carbon emissions).

For many, the upfront costs and disruption involved are too much of a barrier. That is where a place-based model comes into play and the resident can focus on affordably keeping their home at an appropriate comfort level with the secondary benefit that harmful emissions are also being reduced.

Something we have written about before in conjunction with LivingPlaces 👉🏾

This article featured in What Caught Our Eye, a weekly email featuring stories we found particularly interesting during the week and why. We also give our lateral thought on each one. What Caught our Eye is available to read in full by members.

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