Budapest Forum 2022: Socially Just Climate Transition: a Blueprint



  • László Andor, Former European Commissioner, Secretary General, FEPS
  • Heather Grabbe, Senior Advisor, Open Society Foundation
  • Hannah Abdullah, Senior Program Officer, GMF Cities Program
  • Bas Eickhout, MEP Greens/EFA
  • Moderator: Bastian Hermisson, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Head of Division EU/North America



Europe is facing multiple crises nowadays. The core one is Russia’s war against Ukraine – Ukraine’s struggle for self-determination and territorial integrity. The social and economic crisis: a combination of high inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, and a negative outlook for the European and global economy that leads to large-scale poverty and puts our societies under severe stress. The climate crisis: the historic drought in Europe this year, the record floodings, and the general rise of weather extremes with dramatic consequences for the health and wellbeing of citizens, our agriculture throughout the continent, and our economic stability. In these hard times in Europe it is even more important for the green transition, to be designed fairly and with social disparities in mind in order to gain widespread public support and not risk losing democratic stability in the process. Because the war made clear even to those that were hesitant before that we need to rid ourselves of the dependence on Russian gas and oil, but also on fossil fuel exports from other autocratic states.


Main takeaways

  • The European Commission also developed the just transition mechanism but this has a too narrow focus. It can tackle, for example, specific regions of coal mining or high use of energy, but the wider question of urban design and of transport, in general, is developed and maintained, and reformed.
  • People are unaware how exactly their every day behavior and choices has impact on issues like biodiversity, on the circural economy, on emissions and the climate itself.
  • It's really hard for people to see how their decisions now will affect the climate that they and their children have to live in, and the social distribution of the burdens and benefits of this transition over a long period of time.
  • The transition cannot be achieved through isolated actions or cosmetic interventions. It needs to be part of a broader systemic transformation that moves us from our linear economic model that exploits the planet and bundle people towards a more circular and restorative economy that respects the environment and social thresholds.
  • There's increasing awareness and political willingness at the city level to finance programs for energy efficient retrofitting of housing, and also to decrease energy povetrty or issues like traffic-generated air pollution in low income neighborhoods.
  • There’s increasing inequality all over the world, which is coming from the capitalist system.


Policy recommendations

  • The climate crisis turned from a slow-burning crisis into a fast-burning one, and to a climate emergency. Therefore, the countries need to implement a multitude of actions in a short period of time in order to turn around the trends that threaten life on Earth and especially the living conditions of the next generations.
  • The war is a big risk with countries countries bringing back coal, deforestation, shale and fracking. Those could make an unwelcome turn in the energy mix, but with better cooperation and coordination, Europe can prevent these threats.
  • The green transition has to be centrally planned, with a big policy framework through the EU but without overriding democratic debate.
  • In order to reduce inequality, countries have to change the tax policies, but, this have to be done in a coordinated on a European level, which seems impossible at the moment.

 The event was organised in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung.