With the adoption of the EU Green Deal and Eastern Partnership Initiative, the EU is putting forward an ambitious agenda to fight climate change within and beyond its borders. But what does the Green Deal mean for Georgia´s transformation process, and how can Georgian youth join forces with other actors to effectively tackle the effects of climate change?
An analysis by Jil Kaiser
with Khatia Gabinashvili, Salome Kushashvili, Tamta Gabinashvili, Giorgi Mokverashvili, Ana Baidauri, Madina Alkhanashvili, Iman Sviakauri & Mari Margoshvili
In 2009, the European Union (EU) launched its Eastern Partnership Initiative to foster horizontal and vertical cooperation between the European Union and its Eastern European neighbours. The ultimate goal: Supporting sustainable reform processes across the region and making an active contribution towards reaching the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. A lot has happened since then: climate change, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity have become the most pressing challenges for the European Union and its Eastern European neighbours. Sustainable climate-friendly transformation processes that strengthen climate resilience are needed more than ever.
The EU is positioning itself at the forefront of climate change mitigation and adaptation. With the EU Green Deal, approved in 2020 by the Commission, the EU launched an ambitious roadmap on the way toward climate neutrality no later than 2050. A strong growth strategy to transform the European continent into a resource-efficient competitive economy following the spirit of the United Nations (UN): “Leave no one behind” is at the centre of the EU sustainability strategy. To become a resource-efficient and climate-smart economic hub, the Green Deal has the goal of eradicating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and reducing them by 50 per cent by 2030, while at the same time decoupling economic growth from resources and engaging in transparent and inclusive transformation processes. But what does this mean in practice, and how will these policy pillars be implemented on a practical level?
To reach its goal by 2050, the Green Deal relies on cross-sectoral cooperation as all sectors actively contribute to achieving the 2050 targets. Through the promotion of innovative climate-friendly technologies and providing the financial resources for climate-smart innovation, the EU intends to tackle climate change. The second pillar of the Green Deal addresses public and private infrastructure, meaning that transportation and energy grids will be re-imagined and become more sustainable, through the decarbonisation of the energy sector. The last component of the Green Deal consists of transforming global food systems creating a fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly “from farm to fork” system. However, to promote green economies, financial initiatives for the EU partners under the European Payments Initiative (EPI) countries, including Georgia, are required. This entails financial initiatives including private-public investments, sustainable investment taxonomies, as well as growth in labour strategies, with an overall budget of one trillion euros in conjunction with the EU Climate and Energy plan as a second component to reach the Paris Agreement obligations.
The Georgian Perspective
But what does the Green Deal mean for Georgia’s economic transformation process? Georgia as well as the other countries in the region mostly face air pollution challenges, lack sustainable waste management systems, and struggle with ensuring safe and sustainable water and food supplies.The EU and Georgia work together in four key policy areas tackling environmental degradation while engaging in policies respecting people and the planet, ensuring climate standards and improving the overall life quality of the Georgian population. In a joint network of the Eastern Partnership region, Georgia seeks to sustainably manage forests and conserve its ecosystems to support the livelihoods of the communities relying on forestry. To ensure environmentally friendly livelihoods, the EU engages in sustainable finance options for local communities that want to invest in sustainable technologies.
The third pillar tackles sustainable water and waste management systems, and policy goals aligned with the Paris Agreement. Projects include the conservation of the Black Sea through data collection and monitoring systems detecting toxic substances, as well as waste management initiatives. Currently, Georgia is producing 900,000 tons of waste annually with 75 percent ending up in landfill sites, not in line with EU waste management standards. To limit the loss of biodiversity in a joint program, the EU and Georgia implement several initiatives, fighting desertification and erosion. The loss of biodiversity is already visible in affected areas, as an officer of the Protected Areas Administration points out: “I can say that climate is changing. Some of the vegetation does not exist here anymore.”
Grassroots Action: Youth4climate?
However, to reach the policy goals of the EU4Climate and EU4Environment project and to ensure sustainable long-term outputs, strong civic society, grassroots engagement, and active youth are vital. Only by linking young people to the civil society sector and through the establishment of cross-sectoral partnerships, a re-imagination of Georgia’s economy can be successful. This point of view was underlined by UN Secretary General António Guterres during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26): “Young people have been in the forefront of putting forward positive solutions, advocating for climate justice and holding leaders to account. We need young people everywhere to keep raising your voices.”
This is exactly the stance the German-Georgian project #GEONex – Partnerships for Youth Engagement is pursuing: Enabling international cross-sectoral cooperation by supporting Georgia’s youth in building partnerships with the public sector to implement regional projects, while at the same time facilitating accountability and transparency on the part of the Georgian government. #GEOnext is taking youth engagement seriously by putting young activists at the frontline for fighting climate change.
The Kazbegi Initiative is actively working on climate change and strengthening eco-knowledge through delivering capacity-building workshops and training for youth to raise awareness through the mobilisation of local volunteers, as explained by their founder Salome Kushashvili: “We have managed to form a group of local volunteers, who have a strong wish and possibility to do their best (…) and have productive results.” Linking climate change to overarching societal challenges is the prime goal of the “Youth Center Illuminator,” active in the Pankisi Valley.
The organisation is not only delivering capacity building, training, and local clean-up actions to promote environmental competence among Georgia’s youth, but they are also actively promoting the integration of ethnic minorities and communities as the organisation’s founder Giorgi Mokverashvili emphasises: “We want the youth of our valley to be maximally involved in civic activities (while at the same time) increasing the level of integration between the Kist ethnic minority and Georgians. This is the most important issue for us.”
As highlighted above, the EU Green Deal and the EPI established the foundation for Georgia´s Green Economy transformation. However, it is the engagement of cross-sectoral youth grassroots activism that fills policies with meaning. Cross-sectoral participatory youth activism is truly shaping global climate protection. Local, global, and regional partnerships are not only important but imperative for successful climate action from the regional to the global level.
Learn more about our project #GEONext here!
#GEONext is funded by the Federal Foreign Office in the framework of the programme “Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia” and kindly supported by the German Embassy Tbilisi.
The Polis Blog serves as a platform at the disposal of Polis180’s & OpenTTN’s members. Published comments express solely the authors’ opinions and shall not be confounded with the opinions of the editors or of Polis180.
Image by Salome Kandelaki
Jil is originally from Luxembourg. After her highschool graduation, she moved to Vienna, where she studied political science with a focus on EU policy and international relations. She completed her Master’s degree at Goethe University in Frankfurt and Technical University Darmstadt in the field of international development cooperation with a specialization in peace and conflict studies. Currently, she lives in Bonn where she works for a social impact start-up as a junior project manager in the field of digitalization and education. Jil is the #GEONext co-mentor in the field of Climate Change & Sustainability.