Interview with President Livia Pomodoro

Rights, tools and resources for the actualization of the Green New Deal

President Pomodoro, in your opinion, how can the legal influence of a strategic document such the Green New Deal be perceived in terms of the balance between rights and duties?

Rights and duties are two sides of the same coin and only by explaining the analytical complexity can they be seen separately. First of all, however, it is extremely important to distinguish between two types of rights within the bigger picture of the Green New Deal. In addition to those non-negotiable human rights, which must be guaranteed to every single person, there is another type to be addressed as part of the strategic commitment conveyed in the Deal. These are civil rights, those rights which originate from our belonging to the community whether it is a local, national or international one. Within this framework, civil rights imply the highest level of interconnection and can only be enjoyed when duties are carried out. The Green New Deal takes a further step forward and sets the task of developing the environmental regulatory framework and of fine-tuning rights and duties between people and “nature".

Therefore the necessary balance requires legal systems that regulate human relations with the earth and the environment and at the same time foster sustainable economic development. Officially, for now we are on the right path – that is to say, the right to a healthy environment has gained recognition and constitutional protection reflecting the strongest from of legal protection available in over 100 countries. Approximately two thirds of constitutional rights refer to a healthy environment while alternative expressions include the right to a clean, safe, favorable, wholesome or ecologically balanced environment.

That said however, defining a research perspective is not simply a matter of defining  the system but also one of redimensioning it, which can provide an advantageous methodological basis for analysing the re-elaborated fields of power within which the right application tools and processes are found. At that point, duties are placed at the centre of the legal outlook. Broadly speaking we can identify three different mechanisms to express them: duties to respect the rights of others (the so-called complementary duties); duties not to exercise rights contrary to certain statutory or individual interests (understood as the limitations of rights) and independent duties (so-called non complementary duties).

Today the subject of development is also closely connected to duties, those which arise from our relationship with the natural environment. Duties, as such, set a limit to rights because they set down the anthropological and ethical framework of which rights are separate, ensuring that they do not become a mere concession. In this way, duties strengthen rights and demand to be fostered and safeguarded for common good.

In your opinion, what type of resources must we mobilize first to put social well-being at the heart of development policies? What sort of tools can be used to get closer to fairness and intergenerational dialogue, which are perceived as key factors of the change?

The Green New Deal rightly puts social well-being as the counterpoise to all the commitments in the path towards a decarbonized economy, because the economy needs ethics in order to work correctly- not ethics of any kind, but people-centred ones. In order to attain that, training must become the absolute priority of development, because only by generating new expertise and know-how will we be able to forge human capital ready to face the power of change for the benefit of everyone. A part from an overhaul of the school system which offers students an environmentally friendly government-approved programme with strong climate awareness  that to some, may seem like a good way to forge future profiles, knowledge and expertise will have to go further than that and become part of science diplomacy whose conceptual expansion coincides with the growing understanding that science and technology are the basis of a number of opportunities that modern societies can take advantage of as a prospective solution.

As far as the EU commitment is concerned, an interesting boost was made with the Madrid Declaration on science diplomacy adopted at the conference “European Science Diplomacy beyond  2020”, held in Madrid last December. This Declaration, despite being non-binding, perfectly reflects the objectives of the Green New deal by affirming a common vision of science diplomacy in the future, underlining the benefits it can bring and outlining the principles necessary to be fostered around the world.This convergence of interests must be in the interest of fairness and intergenerational dialogue which are perceived as key factors of the change. The Green New Deal, therefore, offers a breeding ground for adaptive governance that has the ability to explain why creating significant interest and involvement of young people should be understood in terms of intergenerational dialogue, collaboration, learning and decision making.

The European Green Deal has been defined as "an opportunity to guarantee a clean and prosperous future for young European generations".  What do you think about that? What role will young people have in the future?

The national and international press, before and after the pandemic, was and still is full of articles dedicated to young people and how the Fridays for Future movement made their voices heard. Personally I see it in a rather different light: the Fridays for Future  demonstrations were simply the mediatically relevant moment in which the press became aware of how young people were already acting showcasing a rather unexpected and high level of environmental and social awareness.

The European Green Deal, with an allocated budget of 1000 billion €, the introduction of the Climate Law and the proposal of supply chain strategies offer a great number of opportunities and highlight just as many challenges. The transition towards a sustainable future is inevitably full of changes, even radical and difficult ones. Young people, millennials, have shown that they are eager for change. If the European Green Deal will mean training, business and innovation opportunities then I have no doubt that young people will be a fundamental part of the change.

The agro-industrial sector is a good example: data already shows us that, in farming, despite the difficulties, the transformation towards sustainability is driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs. The sector, however, is also an example of well consolidated difficulties: it is increasingly more difficult to enter into for newcomers, the high entry costs and the business risks make radical change extremely difficult- overcoming underlying paradigms and models for a transition towards full sustainability. If the Green Deal offers greater openness and solutions to these and similar hurdles young people will know how to do their part.

According to the cronoprogram for the Green Deal, the European Commission should have presented the strategy “ From the producer to the consumer”, in April, aimed at making food systems more sustainable. What future do you see for European food systems, for the application and the protection of the right to food in Europe?

Safeguarding the right to food and sustainable food systems are “possible” feats, issues I have been working on for many years as the President of the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy and as UNESCO chair in Food: Access and Law. And Europe is ready to face the two crucial challenges in the coming years: the protection of human rights along the supply chain and the adoption of sustainable techniques and technologies. The European Common Agricultural Policy- despite the criticism- has adopted new aproaches, promoting the reduction of trade-offs in the sector and fostering funding for sustainable agricultural businesses. Moreover, the change of vision gives hope that- and here lies the hype of the European Commission  strategy “from the producer to the consumer” - the policy becomes a common food policy,finally offering the opportunity to coordinate actions, regulations and financing on European supply chains as a whole. Then there is the Just Transition Fund, whose foundation underlines the idea that the transition- energy based, but not only- must go hand in hand with “social justice”. Fairness and protection of the right to food in food systems are crucial issues, on which much of the actual universal application of the right to food depends. For now, the 7.5 billion allocated funding will be invested in the energy sector, but the overall approach shows how the direction of future development of Europe has been pinpointed and the efforts of the countries are combined in order to achieve it- it is not surprising, there has been talk about a mission-oriented Green Deal. Although the period is by no means easy, there are sound reasons to have faith and confidence in the future and the coming years. There are many variables, but if we are capable of resilience, innovation and courage then the challenges of the near future are well within our reach.