The Social-ecological dimension of the European Green Deal

The Social-ecological dimension of the European Green Deal

Social–Ecological Transitions - Online Seminar 25th April 2024
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Social–Ecological Transitions 

The Social-ecological dimension of the European Green Deal

Online Seminar - 25th April 2024, 10 am – 4.45 pm

Registration link

The 2019 European Green Deal (EGD) has been a quantum leap in the history of European climate policies. It gave unprecedented priority to the climate crisis, setting 2050 as a target for the decarbonization of European economies (European Commission, 2019). As ecological issues have gained salience, it is also becoming increasingly evident that both climate change and climate policies will generate a new wave of social risks for European welfare states to address, disproportionally impacting not only low-income households but also the lower middle class (Beaussier, Chevalier, Palier 2024). Since the publication of the EGD, a just transition policy framework – meant to “leave no one behind” in the green transition – has been gradually emerging at the EU level, with notable instruments including the Just Transition Fund and the Social Climate Fund (Zimmermann and Gengnagel, 2023; Graziano, 2023). Nevertheless, the EU’s weak interpretation of just transition is likely to be insufficient to meet the huge challenges ahead, since EU efforts only target the most urgent social impacts of the green transition (Sabato et al. 2023; Crespy and Munta, 2023). Furthermore, just transition policies should always be in line with the EU growth imperative, which problematically remains unquestioned, as the EU strives to make growth “green” through technological modernization (Laurent, 2021). To make matters worse, consensus around the European Green Deal seems to be fading in many parts of the political spectrum and sectors of society, with new “eco-social divides” on the rise, potentially pitting environmentalists against welfare enthusiasts (Otto and Gugushvili, 2020).

With the EU elections just around the corner and in the face of growing support for far-right parties and anti-green “countermovements”, it is more necessary than ever to reflect upon how to strengthen the EU just transition agenda, and how to redesign the European Green Deal towards a truly social-ecological model. In this respect, in the past few years, a growing academic interest in the interconnections between social and ecological challenges and policies has surfaced, bringing various scholars to build a Sustainable Welfare and Eco-social Policy Network (Mandelli et al, 2022). The aim of scholars in this network is precisely to study eco-social policies, which should allow us to address the new social risks related to climate change, by building a sustainable welfare that guarantees human needs within planetary boundaries (Bohnenberger, 2023; Gough, 2017). This objective often goes hand to hand with the promotion of a post-growth approach, seeking to reduce the ecological footprint of the welfare state, which is rooted in its growth dependence (Büchs and Koch, 2017).

The seminar aims to discuss the political challenges and perspectives for a social-ecological European Green Deal. Renowned scholars from the Sustainable Welfare and Eco-social Policy Network are invited to present their works in the framework of SciencesPo’s Socio-Ecological Transition Initiative (SET), which is coordinated by Anne-Laure Beaussier (CSO), Éloi Laurent (OFCE), Matteo Mandelli (LIEPP) and Bruno Palier (CEE). The seminar is sponsored by the To Be Project, funded by the European Union, and it is co-organized by CSO, CEE, LIEPP, OFCE in partnership with SciencesPo’s Atelier interdisciplinaire de recherches sur l'environnement and Institut pour les transformations environnementales. The ultimate goals of the seminar are to encourage exchanges between international academics and SciencesPo’s researchers interested in these interdisciplinary issues, as well as to inform the current political debate about the future of the European Green Deal. In this spirit, EU policymakers from the European Commission, the European Parliament and European trade unions will be invited to discuss the academic presentations.

The seminar is structured in three parts. In the first session, speakers will provide theoretical and normative perspectives about sustainable welfare and eco-social policies beyond growth. The second part will shed light on the political conflicts and coalitions connected to environmental and social policies. Third, and finally, we will discuss the social-ecological dimension of the European Green Deal, highlighting its potential and shortfalls.


9.30 - 10.00

Welcome & Coffee

10.00 - 11.30

Session 1: Theoretical-empirical perspectives on Sustainable Welfare and Eco-social policies


Chair: Matteo Mandelli, SciencesPo Paris


· Katharina Bohnenberger, German Institute for Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research & University of Bremen

· Ian Gough, London School of Economics

· Max Koch, University of Lund

Discussant: Anaïs De Munck, Cabinet of the Belgian Minister of Climate, Environment, SD and Green Deal

11.30 – 11.45

Coffee break

11.45 – 13.15

Session 2: The politics of environmental and social policies in Europe: conflicts or consensus?


Chair: Pierre Charbonnier, SciencesPo Paris


· Anne-Laure Beaussier, Tom Chevalier and Bruno Palier, Sciences Po Paris

· Adeline Otto, K.U. Leuven

· Katharina Zimmermann, University of Hamburg

Discussant: Ludovic Voet, ETUC

13.15 – 14.30

Lunch break

14.30 – 16.00

Session 3: Towards a socio-ecological European Green Deal


Chair: Yamina Saheb, OpenExp & IPCC


· Amandine Crespy, Université libre de Bruxelles

· Eloi Laurent, Sciences Po Paris

· Ekaterina Domorenok & Benedetta Cotta, University of Padua

Discussant: Frank Siebern-Thomas, European Commission

16.00 – 16.45

Wrap-up & future perspectives



Beaussier AL, Chevalier T, Palier B. (2024). ‘Qui supporte le coût de la transition environnementale ? Penser les inégalités face aux risques sociaux liés au changement climatique. Revue Française des Affaires Sociales (forthcoming). 

Bohnenberger K. (2023) Peaks and gaps in eco-social policy and sustainable welfare: A systematic literature map of the research landscape. European Journal of Social Security 25(4): 328-346.

Büchs M. and Koch M. (2017) Postgrowth and Wellbeing: Challenges to Sustainable Welfare, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Crespy A. and Munta M. (2023) Lost in transition? Social justice and the politics of the EU green transition. Transfer (Brussels, Belgium) 29 (2): 235 251.

European Commission (2019) The European Green Deal, COM (2019) 640 final, 11 December 2019, Brussels.

Gough I. (2017) Heat, Greed and Human Need: Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Graziano, P. (2023). The politics of the EU eco-social policies. European Political Science.

Laurent E. (2021) The European Green Deal: from growth strategy to social-ecological transition? In: Vanhercke B. et al. (eds.) Social policy in the European Union: state of the play 2020. Facing the pandemic. Brussels: European Social Observatory and European Trade Union Institute, pp. 97–111.

Mandelli M., Bohnenberger K., Hirvilammi T. and Zimmermann K. (2022) The Sustainable Welfare and Eco-Social Policy Network. Culture, Practice & Europeanization 7(2): 304-308.

Otto, A. and Gugushvili, D. (2020) Eco-Social Divides in Europe: Public Attitudes towards Welfare and Climate Change Policies. Sustainability 12(1): 404.

Sabato S., Büchs M. and Vanhille, J. (2023) A just transition towards climate neutrality for the EU Debates, key issues and ways forward. OSE Paper Series, Research Paper No. 52, May 2023, 52p.

Zimmermann, K. and Gengnagel, V. (2023) Mapping the social dimension of the European Green Deal. European Journal of Social Security 25(4): 523-544. 

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