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Restructuring Libya’s finance and economy

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Last August the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) moved its Tripoli’s offices to the now famous Tripoli Tower.

The traditional financial institution of Gaddafi’s regime currently manages approximately 67 billion US dollars, most of which are frozen due to the UN sanctions.

Said sanctions shall be gradually removed and replaced with a system of market controls, as the Libyan economy finds its way.

Right now that, after intimidation and serious and often armed threats, LIA has moved to the safer Tripoli Tower.

However, how was LIA established and, above all, what is it today? The Fund, which has some characteristics typical of the oil countries’ sovereign funds, was created in 2006, just as the EU and US economic and trade sanctions against Gaddafi’s regime were slowly being lifted.

The idea underlying the operation was simple and rational, just like the one that had long pushed Norway to create the Government Pension Fund Global, i.e. using the oil profits to avoid the post-energy crisis in Libya and preserve the living standards of the good times.

Hence investing in its post-oil future using the huge surplus generated by the crude oil sales.

From the beginning, LIA had to manage a portfolio of over 65 billion US dollars, but with three policy lines: firstly, 30 billion dollars to be invested in bonds and hedge funds; secondly, business finance and thirdly, the temporary liquidity secured in the Central Bank of Libya and in the Libyan Foreign Bank.

The funds of those two banks soon acquired a value equal to 60% of all LIA assets.

All the companies having relations with foreign markets, from Libya, fell within the scope of the Libyan Investment Fund.

Currently LIA has over 552 subsidiaries.

Nevertheless, there are no documents proving it with certainty. To date there are not even archives that credibly corroborate the LIA budgets and statistics.

Since 2012 it has not even undergone any auditing activity.

There were and there are no strategies for allocating investments nor a plan. The only criterion followed by the Fund managers – now as in the past – is to invest the maximum sums of money in the shortest lapse of time.

The first serious audit was finally carried out by KPMG in June 2011, in the heat of the battle for the survival of Gaddafi’s regime.

At the time, high-risk derivatives transactions were worth as much as 35% of LIA’s total investments – which was incredible for the other global funds.

According to the most secret but reliable sources, however, in 2009 the losses of the Libyan Fund exceeded 2.4 billion US dollars.

What happened, however, in 2011, after the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime? How did LIA and the Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAIP) act?

In fact, neither company could carry out any operations.

In 2014 alone, LIA’s losses were at least 721 million US dollars.

Moreover, LAIP still holds in its portfolio the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (LAICO), which manages investments –  particularly in the real estate sector – in 19 African countries, with specific related companies in Guinea Bissau, Chad and Liberia.

Furthermore, Oil-Libya still operates as a network manager and extractor in at least 18 African countries.

On top of it, the Libyan Fund still owns Rascom Star, a satellite and telephone network connecting much of rural Africa.

Within LAIP there is also FM Capital Partners LTD, another real estate Fund.

Nevertheless, as early as the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime, the internal policy lines of LIA and of the other companies separated: 50% of managers wanted to continue the activity according to the classic rules of the Company’s Management, while the others thought they should mainly follow the new political equilibria within Libya.

The last audit carried out by Deloitte also demonstrated that the over 550 subsidiaries were the real problem of the Fund.

Deloitte also assessed that at least 40% of those companies were completely uneconomic and had to be sold quickly.

In this bunch of lame ducks there were, for example, the eight refineries – one of which managed by Oil invest in Switzerland – which also paid penalties to the Swiss government for obvious environmental reasons.

Allegedly the refinery in Switzerland stopped its activities in 2017.

The traditional investment line of the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company (LAFICO) has always been linked to LIA, which currently has over 160 billion US dollars avaialble, including oil, personal income and old foreign investment of Colonel Gaddafi, once again only partially reported to international authorities.

Moreover, according to the LIA managers of the time, the various companies within the Fund did not communicate one another and hence their strategies overlapped.

And the same held true for the interests of their different political offspring.

Moreover, in 2011 an old independent audit showed that the losses before the sanctions that preceded the uprisings amounted to approximately 3.1 billion US dollars.

Gaddafi’s regime started to collapse – a regime which, according to the international narrative, had allegedly accumulated all the money taken by LIA and its subsidiaries.

Obviously this is not true – exactly as it is not true that the “deficit” in Italy’s public finances before the “Bribesville” scandal was caused only by the greed and voracity of the ruling class.

In the countries where there is a destructive psywar and an offensive economic war, these are now the usual models.

It is not by chance that on December 16, 2011 the UN Security Council lifted the specific sanctions against the  Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Foreign Bank (which is not LAFICO) because they had supported the uprisings against Colonel Gaddafi.

In 2014 LIA initiated legal proceedings against Goldman Sachs, which cost it 1.2 billion US dollars, with a bonus for the intermediary bank of 350 million dollars.

The proceedings ended in 2016 and the British judges decided in favour of Goldman Sachs that was entitled to a compensation amounting to one million US dollars.

There was also another legal action brought against Société Générale, which had started in 2014 and later ended with LIA’s partial defeat.

As to the 2018 national budget, for example, the Central Bank of Libya has envisaged the amount of 42,511 billion dinars, broken down as follows: 24.5 for salaries and wages; 6.5 billion dollars for petrol subsidies and 6.7 billion dollars for “other expenses”.

On average the dinar exchange rate is 1.3 as against the dollar, but it is much lower on the black market.

And public spending is all for subsidies and salaries. Very little is spent for welfare – that was Colonel Gaddafi’s asset for gaining consensus. Social wellbeing can be achieved with good stability of oil prices and revenues, which is certainly not the case now.

Moreover, General Haftar militarily conquered the oil sites of the Libyan “oil crescent” on June 14, 2018, after having held back the attacks of the Petroleum Defence Guards of Ibrahim Jadhran, the commander of the force protecting the oil wells and facilities.

According to General Haftar, the condition for reopening wells, as well as storage and transport sites, was the replacement of the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya, Siddiq al-Kabir, with his candidate, namely Mohammad al-Shukri.

Siddiq al-Kabir stated that the Central Bank of Libya has lost 48 billion dinars over the last 4 years and rejected the appointment – formally made by the Tobruk-based Parliament – of his successor, al-Shukri.

Moreover, Siddiq al-Kabirhas also been accused of having pocketed a series of Libyan public funds abroad.

Later General Haftar attacked the Central Bank of Libya in Benghazi to collect funds for the salaries of his soldiers.

Hence the current Libyan financial tension lies in the link between banks and oil revenues – two highly problematic situations, both in al-Serraj’s and in the Benghazi governments, as well as in General Khalifa Haftar’s ranks.

It is certainly no coincidence that the Presidential Council decided to impose a 183% tax on currency transactions with banks.

In addition, taxation was introduced on the goods imported by companies before the current tax reform, which is linked to the reform of the allocation of basic commodities to the Libyan population.

The idea is to stabilize prices and hence make the exchange rate between the dinar and the dollar acceptable, which is another root cause of the economic crisis.

The Libyan citizens often demonstrate in front of bank branches, which are constantly undergoing a liquidity crisis. Prices are out of control and the instability of exchange rates harms also oil transactions, as can be easily imagined.

Nevertheless, even the area controlled by the Tobruk-based Parliament and General Haftar’s Forces is not in a better situation.

In fact, Eastern Libya’s banking authorities have already put their banknotes and coins into circulation, which are already partly used and were printed and minted in Russia.

Pursuant to al-Serraj’s decision of May 2016, said banknotes are accepted in the Tripoli area.

Four billion dinars, with the face of Colonel Gaddafi portrayed on them, and of the same dark colour as copper.

According to the most reliable sources, the reserves of the Central Bank of Libya in Bayda – the city hosting the Central Bank of Eastern Libya – are still substantial: 800 million dinars, 60 million euros and 80 million dollars.

Not bad for an area destroyed by war.

Obviously the simple division into two of the Central Bank – of which only the Tripoli branch is internationally recognized – is the root cause of the terrible Weimar-style devaluation of the Libyan dinar, which, as always happens, they try to patch up with the artificial scarcity of the money in circulation.

As Schumpeter taught us, this does not solve the problem, but shifts it to real goods and services, thus increasing their artificial scarcity and hence their cost.

Meanwhile, the economic situation shows some signs of improvement, considering that the 2017 data and statistics point to total revenues (again only for Tripoli’s government) equal to  22.23 billion dinars, of which 19.2 billion dinars of oil exports; 845 million dinars of taxes; 164 million dinars of customs duties, above all on oil, and 2.1 billion dinars of remaining revenue.

At geopolitical level, however, the tendency to Libya’s partition – which would be a disaster also for oil consumers and, above all, for the Libyan economy, considering that the oil crescent is halfway between the two opposing States – is de facto the prevailing one.

Egypt openly supports General Khalifa Haftar and the tribes helping him.

The Gharyan tribe and many other major ones, totalling 140, now support the Benghazi Government, since at the beginning of clashes, they had often been affiliated to Tripoli and its Government of National Accord.

Tunisia has always tried to reach a very difficult neutral position.

Algeria strongly fears the intrusion of the Emirates’ and Qatar’s Turkish intelligence services into the Libyan economic, oil and political context, but it endeavours above all to limit the Egyptian pressure to the East.

The European powers support General Haftar- with France that, as early as the first inter-Libyan fights, sent him the  Brigade Action of its intelligence services. Conversely, Italy is rebuilding its special relationship with al-Serraj’s government – like the one it had with Gaddafi – but with recent openings to General Haftar.

If we want to reach absolute equivalence between the parties, we must avoid doing foreign policy.

Great Britain and the United States tend to quickly withdraw from the Libyan region, thus avoiding to make choices and not tackling the economic and social crisis that could trigger again a war, with the jihad still playing the lion’s share and precisely in the oil crescent.

The United States should not believe that its great oil autonomy, which also pushes it to sell its natural gas abroad, can exempt it from developing a policy putting an end to the unfortunate phase of the “Arab Springs” it had started – of which Gaddafi’s fall is an essential part.

Currently the Libyan production share is around 1% of the total OPEC production.

Everyone is preparing for the significant increase of the oil barrel price, which is expected to reach almost 100 US dollars in the coming months.

If this happened – and it will certainly happen – the Libyan economy could be even safe, but certainly corruption and the overlapping of two financial administrations and two central banks, as well as political insecurity, could still stop Libya’s economic growth.

Hence, for the next international conference scheduled in Palermo for November 12-13, we would need a common economic and financial policy line of all non-Libyan participants to be submitted to both local governments.

Probably General Haftar will not participate – as stated by a member of the Tobruk-based Parliament – but certainly Putin will not participate.

The presence of Mike Pompeo is taken for granted, but probably also the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, will participate.

Certainly the Italian diplomacy focused only on “Europe” has lost much of the sheen that has characterized it in Africa and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, we could start with a working proposal on the Libyan economy.

For example, a) a European audit for all Libyan state-run companies of both sides.

Later b) the definition of a New Dinar, of which the margin of fluctuation with the dollar, the Euro and the other major international currencies should be established.

Some observers should also be involved, such as China.

Furthermore, an independent authority should be created, which should be accountable to the Libyan governments, but also to the EU, on the public finances of the two Libyan governments.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Possible Impacts of the Russia-Ukraine War on Global Food Trade

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The large-scale war that erupted between Russia and Ukraine, the two major grain-producing countries, undoubtedly will impact the global food market. However, it would be insufficient to use simple quantitative analyses to assess its effect on the global grain trade. It is only through an all-rounded interpretation of the grain production cycle and the supply structure can we truly recognize the complexity of the problem.

Quantity-wise, Russia is currently the world’s largest exporter of wheat, accounting for about 16.9% of global exports in 2021. The combined annual wheat exports from Russia and Ukraine (about 60 million tons) are equivalent to 30% of the world’s total exports. Corn exports of the two countries (about 38 million tons) accounted for 20% of the total global exports. Ukraine, in particular, exported 23.1 million tons of corn, 16.6 million tons of wheat, and 4.2 million tons of barley in 2020/2021, making it the world’s second-largest grain exporter after the United States in total exports of all grains. In addition to barley, Russia and Ukraine provide one-third of the world’s grain exports. Such a huge volume is the reason the market is highly concerned about the security of the global food supply.

It should be noted that the key window times for wheat and corn exports from the Black Sea region are August to October and October to May of the following year. The majority of the grain produced in the previous year has already been sold by Russia and Ukraine. In the case of Ukraine, it has been stated that 7 million tons of wheat and 12 million tons of corn are still awaiting delivery. Ukraine’s foreign shipping has been halted, and traders are attempting to arrange for grain exports via train through the country’s western border, but transportation capacity is limited, implying that the short-term market supply gap caused by the Russia-Ukraine war could be in the range of 20 million tons.

If solely grain production, stock, and demand are evaluated at this scale, ignoring trade and geopolitical variables, the EU and India can compensate for wheat, while the U.S. and Argentina can compensate for corn. In the short-term future, there will be no big issues with food supplies. According to USDA estimates released in March, wheat stocks in the United States and India could reach as high as 17.63 million tons and 26.1 million tons, respectively, by the end of 2021/2022. Current global grain prices continue to rise and reach a record high, owing to market concerns over current inventories and future supplies, causing futures prices to overshoot to some extent.

However, in the medium and long-term production problems, such as transportation and sales problems, and other issues, as well as geopolitical factors such as the probable continuation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the global grain trade will experience a more significant impact as a result. This situation will cause severe disruption in the USD 120 billion global grain trade market.

In terms of the war’s impact on agricultural production, Ukraine suffered more directly. More than 90% of the crop grown in Ukraine is winter wheat. In this year’s grain production, winter wheat was in the field before the escalation of the situation in Ukraine and will be harvested around July this year. Ukraine will lose an estimated over 20% of its winter wheat production due to its harvesting inability, which is also the impact of the direct damage caused by the war. Judging from the previous information, the domestic fertilizer supply in Ukraine also faces some issues. Since the top-dressing period of Ukrainian winter wheat coincides with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the lack of fertilizer or even the inability to top-dress in time will reduce the yield per unit of winter wheat. Even if it is fully harvested, its total output could be 15% less than that of the previous year. Ukraine’s wheat production in 2021 was about 33 million tons, equivalent to more than 6 million tons of wheat supply if calculated at 20%. The impact of the war on spring planting is likely to be greater, which will severely impact Ukraine’s corn production in 2022. In 2021, Ukraine has replaced Brazil as the world’s third corn exporter, with an export volume of about 32 million tons, accounting for about 16% of the world’s total export volume and 80% of its own corn production. However, according to Ukrainian domestic estimates, the spring planting area completed in Ukraine for this year may even be as low as 50% of the usual year. Even if it is optimistically estimated that Ukraine can achieve 70% of the spring planting area this year, according to Ukraine’s corn production of about 42 million tons in 2021, it will lose more than 10 million tons of external supply.

The direct threat to Russia’s foreign food supply is the imposition of trade and financial sanctions by Europe and the United States, which make it difficult to deliver and pay for its export commodities. However, there is greater uncertainty when it comes to individual operations of this type. For example, Russia’s wheat exports surged by about 60% year on year in March, marking a significant rebound from the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. It should be noted that when faced with external sanctions, Russia tends to “weaponize” grain exports. For example, in addition to recently raising export tariffs, Russia has threatened to restrict grain exports to “unfriendly countries”. Such a constraint on initiative could have much more serious consequences.

From the demand side, Russia and Ukraine may experience a substantial reduction in their foreign grain exports in the future, which will impact the daily food supply in the world, especially in some countries. For example, wheat is the staple food of more than 35% of the world’s population, and it is hard to be replaced easily with another crop in the short term. Russia’s influence on the global grain market also mainly lies in wheat crops. In 2021, wheat exports will be 35 million tons, accounting for about 17% of global exports, second only to the EU. Russian wheat is mainly sold to the Middle East. The top five exporters are Turkey, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan, accounting for 25%, 21%, 4%, 3%, and 3% of Russia’s total wheat exports in 2021, respectively. Meanwhile, Ukraine mainly sells its corn to China, Europe, and other countries or region. Its top five exporters in 2020 are China, the Netherlands, Egypt, Spain, and Turkey, accounting for 28%, 11%, 10%, 9%, and 5% of the total Ukrainian corn exports that year, respectively. In 2021, China imported 8.2345 million tons of corn from Ukraine, accounting for 29.0% of China’s total annual imports, making it the second-largest corn importer after the United States. If the grain exports of Russia and Ukraine are reduced or blocked, the above-mentioned relevant countries need to reposition the import direction.

The Russia-Ukraine war will change the total global food supply and the flow of its exports. Besides that, new trade flows come at a cost, whereby the logistics would be more expensive, takes longer transit time, or might affect the quality, which could further accelerate food prices. The war will not only affect the grain exports of the two countries, but also the uncertainties mentioned above have an impact on grain production, transaction, trade, and transportation to a greater extent. It remains unclear whether the tightening of the food market will boost food exports from other countries. As an institutional analysis pointed out, “high prices tend to lead to protectionism, not just an increase in exports”.

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China’s Current Macroeconomic Situation Calls for New Policy Support

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The latest data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed that its economy grew by 4.8% in the first quarter, basically maintaining stable economic growth and picking up from the fourth quarter of last year. However, amid the intensifying geopolitical conflicts in the world and the increasing pressure on domestic pandemic prevention and control, on the one hand, the consumption data show negative growth in total retail consumption in March, and on the other hand, the real estate market is still in a downward trend with a sharp contraction in sales. Under such circumstance, China’s domestic economic situation cannot be described as “optimistic”. The impacts of internal uncertainties such as COVID-19 prevention and control measures are gradually emerging; the external situation will also become more complicated in the future, and there may be a “double tightening” in international economic growth and currency. In this context, more policy tools are needed to stabilize the country’s domestic economic fundamentals.

For the current Chinese economy, a top finance official recently said that the triple pressure of macroeconomic operation still exists in the first quarter of this year, while the pandemic and economic growth have also emerged some new situations and changes that require attention. In addition, there are also clearly defined corresponding policies to coordinate with economic and social development under the pandemic, while promoting economic operation to maintain a reasonable range. At present, all measures are being carried out in accordance with the requirements of making advance efforts and taking targeted measures, and more policy combinations are being studied and prepared. Researchers at ANBOUND have mentioned that the current economy needs systematic policy support, which should be reflected in policy beyond the existing overall macro policy tone.

As far as monetary policy is concerned, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has taken measures to lower the reserve requirement ratio (RRR). However, the central bank also said that the current liquidity is already at a reasonably abundant level. On the one hand, the RRR cut will improve the capital structure and release long-term funds; on the other hand, it is to reduce the cost of capital for financial institutions. RRR cuts are not sufficient for systemic easing. Under the external situation of rising global inflation and monetary tightening by major central banks, the room for further expansion of aggregate policy is limited. In the future, monetary policy should pay more attention to structural policies and support SMEs and some emerging strategic industries through re-lending and other tools. At the same time, monetary policy tools will support the reform of the financial system and provide a stable monetary environment for systemic reform.

In terms of fiscal policy, on the basis of a deficit-to-GDP ratio of 2.8% this year, the current policy focus is on reducing taxes and fees and investing in special bonds to help ease the burden on the real economy, and ensuring economic and fiscal stability through investment-driven growth. However, judging from the current performance of central and local state-owned enterprises, state-owned enterprises still maintain a rapid momentum of development this year, and they still make a certain contribution to government finance. At the same time, the top finance official also mentioned the possibility of raising funds in the form of short-term treasury bills, if necessary, to help stabilize government finance. Therefore, the strength of fiscal policy is expected to be further increased in the future, and fiscal policy will also play the main role of the new policy tool.

Looking at the policy relaxation in the real estate market since the beginning of this year, the current risk prevention policy needs to accelerate the market clearing of real estate enterprises, so as to remove the obstruction, reverse the downward trend of the real estate market the soonest possible, and help stabilize the overall economic demand. In terms of the financial sector, the non-performing assets of commercial banks and non-bank financial institutions related to real estate have been gradually exposed. With the gradual implementation of the Financial Stability Law and the establishment of the financial risk prevention framework, accelerating the merger and reorganization of the real estate market and unloading the burden of the market should be the focus of future risk prevention policies, which is also conducive to the realization of a “soft landing” of the macroeconomy.

To achieve stable economic growth, China needs not only monetary and fiscal coordination, but also more reform tools to smooth the market cycle. This is reflected not only in the field of commodity circulation, but also in the further reform of capital markets and the development of various regional markets. In the central government’s proposal to build a “unified market”, these contents have been laid out, and will be implemented with various relevant policies in the future. Therefore, institutional reform and construction will be the focus of releasing market space and enhancing endogenous growth. Finance officials expect financial institutions to provide more financial services to key logistics, warehousing, and e-commerce enterprises, and support these enterprises to better leverage the driving effect and clustering effect for smooth logistics and supply chains. This will require not only further reform of the financial system, but also new incremental capital to meet the needs of the new economy. An indispensable component of this would be market opening-up and policy relaxation to guide financial resources toward related fields.

Based on the expectation and judgment of the changes in the Chinese economic situation, systematic easing is still needed to support the economy and avoid the stall of economic growth. As things stand, this need has become increasingly urgent. To keep the economy running in a reasonable range, the country not only needs to continue to promote structural reforms and make cross-cyclical adjustments, both aggregate and structural policies also need to strengthen their counter-cyclical adjustments, promote demand in emerging and conventional sectors, resolve the prominent contradiction, and achieve a new balance of supply and demand in a higher level.

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Putting systems thinking at the heart of a global green and just transition

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In 1972, the seminal report to The Club of Rome – The Limits to Growth – was the first study to explore the possible impacts of the growing ecological footprint of population growth, human activities and its physical impacts on our finite planet from a systems perspective. The authors warned that if growth trends in population, industrialisation, resource use and pollution continued unabated, we would reach, and then overshoot, the carrying capacity of the Earth at some point during the first decades of the 21st century.

50 years on, we are experiencing the real impact of the encroachment of humanity on these limits through COVID-19, climate change and conflict. The pandemic and now the Russian invasion of the Ukraine have both demonstrated the high degree of interdependence between people around the world and the fragility of our current value chains and geo-political relationships. In the words of the International Committee of the Red Cross: ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’.  

What we need is systemic policies that address the complexity of our world and joined-up systems to support the ambition for a global green and just future that guarantees greater resilience to future shocks and stresses. The current global system is far from being green, just or resilient. We must aim for not only net-zero carbon emissions, but also zero biodiversity loss, zero inequality, and zero poverty and design systems that truly place a value on people, planet and prosperity together.

The International System Change Compass strives to do just that. Taking the European Green Deal (EGD) framework as point of departure, the report sets how the European transition may positively contribute to a global transition. The ‘Compass’ serves as a stress-testing tool for policymakers working on topics related to the EGD agenda by outlining what global green and equitable pathways may look along 10 principles and 8 economic ecosystems. While decarbonisation and dematerialisation help support the green transition, reshaping international relations and governance is fundamental in building long-term resilience and ensuring a transition that is socially just as well as green. Success of the green and just transition in Europe depends on how the EU includes the rest of the world in this economic shift, ensuring that the circle of care alongside environmental and social indicators are applied when addressing external relations and trade. Reversely, EU diplomacy can play an important role in reshaping international governance systems through radical collaboration and leadership instead of reinforcing historical power imbalances and exclusion.

Yet, existing policy frameworks do not go far enough in addressing these interconnections and implementation at international and EU-levels is halting in the face of urgent crises requiring short-term emergency responses. For example, post-2020 climate actions designed to help meet the Paris Agreement goals focus on reducing emissions and rarely tackle systemic resource efficiency solutions. Likewise, the focus of Europe’s “green” recovery spending has been on climate, not factoring in nature or biodiversity spending needs. Conversations around the energy transition continue to be driven by traditional security concerns rather than building resilience across interconnected systems, including the food-water-energy nexus. We know, as the IPCC report outlines: “vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions, driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance.” Yet, existing governance frameworks for the global green and socially just transition perpetuate historical, dominant modes of collaboration and partnership, which do not redress historical dependencies and underlying assumptions of. 

This needs to change, urgently. The Planetary emergency will linger if we only treat the acute signs of distress – climate change, COVID, conflict – without also addressing the underlying cause – systems failure. It is time to put systems thinking at the heart of international climate governance and diplomacy. The International System Change Compass makes the case for how Europe’s green and just transition could benefit the EU and the global community at large, from improved health and wellbeing to intact ecosystems and resilient relationships.

Ultimately, if we are to value our future, we need to value resilience in societies and nature and understand the perversities in our existing economic, financial and political systems. This means getting the balance right between saving lives and livelihoods, ensuring economic prosperity and living within our planetary boundaries. The war in Ukraine, the lingering effects of COVID, spiking inflation and increased pressure on political liberties are clear signs that Europe needs to alter its course quickly and implement holistic systems thinking at the core of its policy designs. The European Green Deal provides Europe with a starting point – now policymakers need to apply systems thinking to make sure policy solutions are both green and just and their implementation does not have adverse effects on other policy domains or the larger global transition. The International Systems Compass allows us to ask the right questions, unpack key tensions and put in place the core principles necessary to radically transform our economies. If we want to steer this ship in the right direction, it is an all hands-on-deck systemic approach that is needed with bold political leadership at the helm.

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