The Climate Divide: How the EU should address equitable climate policy


Eman Atta Maan from Pakistan and François Praum from France formed the Bocconi team of students that won the futurEU competition 2023 with their policy proposal titled "The Climate Divide: Why the EU's Border Adjustment Mechanism Needs Rethinking for Developing Countries."

The futurEU Initiative is organised by Hertie School students and researchers, with the support of the CIVICA alliance, the Jacques Delors Centre in Berlin, and the Hertie School. Funded by the DAAD, with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, it was founded in 2019 and it is open to all CIVICA students and PhD researchers and consists of a written round with a submission of a policy brief. With 104 teams participating, over 260 students and researchers from across all ten CIVICA partners entered this year's edition with proposals on the topic "Climate Change and Societal Transformation: How Can EU Policy Advance Climate Protection and Sustainability in a Turbulent World?".

Supported by the CIVICA for Ukraine project, this third edition of futurEU included an Observer Track for students from five Ukrainian universities. Besides gaining access to the workshops on skills development offered throughout the competition, the 16 Ukrainian students participated as observers of the competition finals at the Hertie School and gave a presentation on the devastating environmental impact of the war in Ukraine.

On April 21, after teams from the Hertie School, Bocconi University, the London School of Economics, and Sciences Po argued for their proposals in the morning semi-finals in the forum of the Hertie School in Berlin, two teams from Bocconi University went on to compete in the final rounds. Giacomo Prezioso, Martino Meraviglia and Luca Di Casola presented their policy proposal on “Saving the Planet on a Friday Off: The 4-day Workweek as a Tool of EU Climate Policy” which received the People's Choice Award.

An interview with the final winners, Eman and François, on their policy proposal and futurEU 2023 experience follows:

What’s the policy brief about?

François: "Our policy proposal focused on the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) of the European Union which is set to enter its transitional phase in October this year. This unique tariff on energy-intensive imports poses a threat to export-dependent developing countries - especially Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) - that have minimally contributed to the climate crisis, yet are harshly hit by the latter, and that do not have the capacities to decarbonise without multilateral help. We are convinced that this EU policy is unfair towards developing countries. To solve this issue, we propose a three-pronged approach to make the CBAM equitable and inclusive: First, granting exemptions for LDCs and SIDS; second, emphasising dialogue with them; and third, financing their low-carbon energy transition to accelerate decarbonisation, using all the revenues that the EU will generate with the CBAM to be allocated to climate financing."

Why is this topic so important for you?

Eman: "Coming from Pakistan, where climate change-induced natural disasters have become all too frequent, I felt strongly that the CBAM was not only unfair toward developing countries, but also tone-deaf to the EU’s own complicity in the climate crisis. Now is not the time to impose costs on the victims but to adopt a common (but differentiated) approach to mitigating climate change. I wholeheartedly believe the EU has a major role to play in this, starting from its own policies."

What pushed you to enter a competition on the future of the EU?

Eman: "To be honest, there were many reasons, but mostly that I wanted to be able to provide my two cents on what policymakers in Brussels decide. It was an incredibly empowering process of being able to pinpoint a policy problem in Europe and decide how to fix it."

François: "As an economics student, participating in the futurEU competition was a great learning opportunity for how to effectively identify a policy problem in the EU's environmental agenda, and how to structure and present our own ideas in front of a selected jury panel of the Jacques Delors Centre. How could we convince the Jury of the problem's urgency? How could our policy proposal be effectively implemented using pre-existing legislative frameworks? Answering these questions throughout the competition taught us valuable lessons on policy-making, which we cannot wait to apply in the future in an institutional context!

What did you get out of this experience?

Eman: "An understanding of what a suspect under interrogation must feel like… jokes aside, I learnt to defend my ideas to the death, even when they were scrutinized under a microscopic lens. It truly gave me an appreciation of the importance of standing by what you believe in."

François also mentioned that the spirit amongst participants was an extremely enriching one, and that every group focused on vastly different policy areas and developed diverse proposals. “It was fascinating to see how everyone's creativity to mitigate the climate crisis addressed various types of inequalities and inefficiencies on the current European climate change mitigation agenda. We learned a lot from the other groups, especially the Observer Track, and we all very much hope to stay in touch!”

The futurEU 2023 was organised by Hertie School students and researchers Ambre Grenier-Boley, Camille Desrayud, Francesca Minetto, Patrick von Rakowski, Greta Stevanato, Lea Mathies, Shubhranshu Suman, Kira Schrödel and Beatrice De Mare.

The proposals were judged by Jannik Jansen, Thu Nguyen, Licia Bobzien, Lucas Rasche, Lukas Jerg and Philipp Jäger, all Policy Fellows at the Hertie School’s Jacques Delors Centre.

Watch the event recording or check the photo gallery here >>

The awarding moment of the futurEU 2023 final winners