The awareness that humankind has a common fate – coming at a time when the high price of widespread interconnection was also keenly felt – has laid the groundwork for a global cooperation which has initially focussed on finding pressing common solutions.
At the time of writing this report, there are sixty-five vaccines2 at an advanced stage of testing and eighty-eight at the animal testing stage, timeframes which seemed unimaginable at the beginning of the pandemic and which bear witness to the scientific community’s unprecedented mobilisation to find a solution.
While it is not possible to attribute an ethical value, i.e., a union of consciences and nations, to the response to the health emergency, a kind of common investment, a project for the future, can nevertheless be identified in solidarity. The solitude and insecurity which inhabit the land of the unknown triggered an awareness of a global community, where “we can only be saved together”3.
Leadership crises, such as that of the United States in recent years, are exacerbated in such a situation and a rethink is also underway of the common European experience, which has lately experienced threatening tensions and oppositions. The hope for the new normal of the future based on mass immunisation offers new reasons for unity, as well as opportunities to forge new projects underpinned by the desire for redemption and a new awareness of their limitations.
The evolution of US and European politics provide an accurate barometer of the changes underway.
Both how the recent presidential election unfolded and its outcome reflect the strong polarisation of US society, paving the way for an abrupt change of direction in the US administration, which is likely to move away from the neo-isolationism of recent years and resume multilateral relations. The initial speeches given by President-elect Biden reflect the desire to start by healing domestically, returning to Obama’s spirit of “disagree[ing] without being disagreeable”4, and then recovering credibility in foreign politics via the commitment to re-establish international relations, beginning by rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organisation. The election of Kamala Harris, the first female vice president in US history, is also symbolic, the result of courageous choices, the affirmation that the fight for civil rights is a cornerstone of American democracy and an ambition to rebuild the future.
With the approval of the Recovery and Resilience Facility5, specifically NextGenerationEU, Europe has reached a historic agreement to support growth in the 2021-2027 period. This represents not only the demise of the old austerity policies in favour of short-term Keynesian stimulus but also the surmounting of some member states’ resistance to the issue of European Union bonds to raise resources to be allocated to programmes in the individual countries.
Invoking Simone Veil6, the new European Commission president, Ursula Von Der Leyen7, has on several occasions highlighted how the European Commission guidelines are based on multilateralism and fair trade and the centrality of the goal that Europe will be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
This vision of Europe is strongly rooted in the convictions of the founding fathers who pursued a shared idea out of the rubble of the second world war, and it expresses a desire to pragmatically strengthen EU policies and institutions.
Energy and climate have stormed their way back on to the political agenda, due to the sometimes dramatically pressing nature of the challenges and a growing awareness of issues such as climate change and access to energy in developing countries. Energy resources, which have been instrumental in modern history to shaping international orders, now raise questions that require comprehensive responses and policies that are as broadly agreed as possible, in order to be able to increase the amount of clean energy used by business and in consumption habits8.
The European Green Deal is an ambitious program to combine targets for economic recovery and expand employment in the post-Covid recovery stage via strategies to stimulate large-scale investments and transform climate change challenges into opportunities.
The effect of the program will be to build on Europe’s existing milestones, for instance, in the contribution of renewable sources such as solar and wind, as well as in the portion of clean energy consumed, tipped to reach 32% by 2030.
Science magazine dedicated its mid-November issue9 to research into materials and technologies vital to tackling the issue of global warming. This reflects the scientific fervour in dealing with this fundamental problem faced by humanity, showcasing the dynamism of the world of science and production, as well as a cultural gulf from reactionary narratives.
Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí, 1964. ↩
Interview with the Italian senator, Prof. Elena Cattaneo, La 7, Piazzapulita. Eleven vaccines in phase three trials, 16 in phase two and 38 in phase one. ↩
Pope Frances, “Fratelli Tutti” Encyclical. ↩
Barack H. Obama, speech at Springfield, 5 November 2008. ↩
Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). ↩
Simone Annie Liline Jacob Veil, first president of the European Parliament in 1979, survivor of Auschwitz, Académie Française, Minister, Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur, chevalier of the National Order of Merit and member of the European Constitutional Council. ↩
Ursula Von Der Leyen, Opening Statement in the European Parliament Plenary Session, 16 July 2019. ↩
Simone Tagliapietra, “Understanding the world of tomorrow through the great challenges of energy and climate change”, Energy & climate, 26 October 2020. ↩
“Keeping cool a warming world”, Science, Vol. 370, Issue 6518, 13 November 2020. ↩