Why restoring EU’s ‘Energy and Defence’ will create an opportunity for the future of the European Union

writes Manfredi Morello (MA International Security 2018). Manfredi Morello is a Solicited Rating Team Coordinator at Standard Ethics.

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has led the EU to act in a coherent and united way. The European Defence’s joint procurement capability consortium (EDCC), and the Energy Policy’s renewed Plan (RePowerEU), have become the hallmarks of Von der Leyen’s commission ending mandate. United member states have shown their effectiveness, despite the current decision-making process narrowing the EU’s room for maneuvre.

2022 marks the Conference on the Future of Europe, and all the suspended policies are on the verge of being transformed. The war in Ukraine, however, has urged member states to relaunch two specific policy areas: Energy and Defence.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Despite the tragic outcome of the war at the eastern borders of Europe, Europeans have been acting cohesively, underlining the importance of standing firmly together. Firstly, we saw how rapidly member states came together to put sanctions in place. Then, we observed a swift policy-change concerning energy, perhaps the most ambitious plan since the European Coal and Steel Community: RePowerEU. A plan seeing member states pooling energy resources in order to give a firm response to Russia’s oil and gas retaliation. The plan will preserve the Commission’s priorities towards carbon-neutrality, progressively reshaping the EU’s dependence from Russia’s commodities. But, most importantly, member states will pool their resources to achieve this. A lesson from the past, for a better tomorrow. This perfectly fits with the planned Conference on the Future of Europe’s federalist current.

It should be considered that international organisations will undoubtedly put pressure on EU member states’ defence capabilities, in three ways, in the next quarter: Firstly, the EU is about to issue a general purpose bond framework to sustain the armaments’ supply chain towards Ukraine. This debt issuance programme must be seen as if the EU were to issue peacekeeping bonds for defence and aerospace companies, whose controlling shareholders are mostly in member states (e.g. Leonardo and Fincantieri in Italy, Thales and Airbus in France). Furthermore,  European NATO allies will push the percentage of GDP defence spending from the current amount to NATO’s requested target (i.e. 2% of GDP). Finally, the EU is going to launch a public procurement ecosystem to pool member states’ armament capabilities: the European Defence Capability Consortium (EDCC). The premise must be: “Invest together, better and in Europe” – as recently highlighted by Commissioner Thierry Breton. All these elements put together, are likely to boost the European Security and Defence Policy. The EU’s budget is allocating 500 million euros for the next two years to the EDCC, through which member states will jointly procure their armament programmes. 

Although a joint defence effort is required by the EU, the main European aerospace and defence companies will be under monitoring, due to public and institutional debates on ethical grounds.

Independent sustainability ratings agency Standard Ethics, recently expressed its opinion on the sustainability outlook of the Aerospace and Defence industry. Defence companies have been on the Agency’s radar. On the one hand, the Agency invited the market to reflect on how these companies could align with international sustainability standards, as they will inevitably make more and more profit in the upcoming years. Standard Ethics has also invited the market to review SRI strategies such as sectorial exclusions, given the international organisations’ new agenda.

The past months have taught us a crucial lesson – that Energy and Defence will go hand-in-hand. At the outset of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, there was an overall confusion between Ethics and Sustainability. Now, we must be aware that ethical exclusions are no longer sustainable. The strategic choice the EU is making for future generations rests upon the single market capacity to finance these plans. Without a cohesive common security and defence policy, the EU will not find its belated space in the international order, and its growing demand for peace-keeping cannot be guaranteed. Without a single market for energy, future generations will struggle due to lack of light as well as heat and clean energy.

It is with the utmost confidence that we observe  the recent policy developments concluding that Energy and Defence together are inclined to make the EU an independent super-power. They will fasten the EU to the transatlantic alliance, while formally distancing it from China at the same time. The sole obstacle on the road to a better outcome is the confirmation of a Qualified Majority Vote, for all the decision-making procedures inside the European Council. Until this obstacle has been overcome, we will keep on seeing how a single-member state can easily oppose the progress of a prosperous and ambitious Europe.

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‘Fire on the other side of the sea’: domestic supply chain problems and other ‘migrant issues’

writes Geography student Yusuke Yasuda

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

I’m not sure whether this has a positive or negative connotation, but I have been experiencing the impact of supply chain (or ‘migrant issues’!) daily since I’ve come to the UK to study migration.

Part of my routine, since last September, has been watching local news programs every morning on YouTube. Many of which have been repeatedly reporting domestic supply chain problems, which has motivated me to grab my camera and pop to my local petrol station one day in October. Once there, I saw yellow signs on all petrol pumps saying ‘Sorry, out of use’. Cars were coming and going, with drivers looking more and more disappointed by the situation.

Signs on petrol pumps ©Yusuke Yasuda

On a different day around that period, I dropped by a supermarket on campus on a whim after class, only to find most shelves empty, with signs saying, ‘Sorry for the impact on availability today’. I couldn’t even purchase plain pasta or some juice. These are only a couple of examples of the supply chain problems UK faces these days.

A sign on an empty shelf ©Yusuke Yasuda

As far as I know, supply chain problems are deeply related to a lack of migrant workers caused post-Brexit which, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, is only going to be getting worse. The country faces labour shortages, including lorry drivers, who deliver dairy necessities nationwide.

As one of the individuals affected by this unstable situation (and an international student), I wonder whether the current state of our society and economy are how Brexit supporters imagined life when voted out. Without immigrants, who would help the country operate ‘business as usual’, ensuring daily-life stability?

Empty Port of Dover December 2021 ©Yusuke Yasuda

This phenomenon, in my opinion, could be a good lesson for my home country, Japan. Our government has been attempting to increase the number of migrant workers in response to its chronic shortages of workforce, the lower birth rates, and the fast-pace ageing of the general population. As the government has clarified their plans to welcome more labour migrants to help maintain a stable routine and economy, it seems that to them, immigrants are more like resources, rather than citizens. A win-win situation would be ideal, but migrants tend to be utilized as a political target to form certain public opinions.

As a Japanese saying goes: ‘The fire is on the other side of the sea’, meaning: ‘It’s not my business’, in a nutshell. I hope Japan takes a different approach towards the issue currently occurring ‘on the other side of the sea’.

Fortunately, I’m in the perfect environment to study migration. My course, daily life and international course mates have motivated me to investigate the matter further. I am a firm believer in ‘history will repeat itself’… unless we learn from it – and take all necessary precautions.

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‘Don’t Look Up’: A reflective film on today’s attitudes surrounding the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic

writes Media Practice for Development and Social Change student Cheyanne Bryan

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

[Contains subtle spoilers for Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’]

Netflix’s recent star-studded film, Don’t Look Up, gives a not-so-subtle message about the urgency of the current climate crisis, however, many of these themes can relate to ongoing pandemic debates. Emerging shortly after the worldwide success of Squid Game, the popular streaming platform’s most recent addition is filled with political and social critical commentary that is not missed by viewers.

It has been confirmed by the film’s director, Adam McKay, that Don’t Look Up serves as a visual metaphor for the impending climate emergency, using a comet as a stand-in. Throughout the film, two scientists try to convince the government and citizens to act or else the world will experience an extinction-level catastrophic event.

As COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, has passed and emphasised the fragile state of the planet, a timeline has been set to show the urgency of the current state of the world. According to Climate Clock and many climate experts, we have less than seven years to reduce emissions close to net-zero before the world is tipped to a state of no return, resulting in accelerated animal extinctions, permanently damaged ecosystems and extreme weather. This not only highlights the emergency of the receding global state, but it shows that the issue will undeniably affect many people in thought their lifetimes.

Whilst the nuances and relation to the fight for environmental development in the film parallels our own, many of the issues and arguments raised share a resemblance to attitudes towards the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Don’t Look Up’s obnoxious message has been heavily criticised but this is now the approach many climate change activists, scientists and environmental institutions must take to show the severity of the situation. The film highlights two key points of debate that have a close resemblance to contemporary debates, both concerning climate change and COVID-19.


As COP26 and many climate change centred events have highlighted, large companies and global governments are at the forefront of driving the change. Being the biggest contributors or the ones with the most power, impactful change starts with them making improvements to their regulations and policies.

In recent years, green policies of consumerist companies have been critically examined to identify what improvements can be made to lessen the crimpling impact on the planet. Examples of this, include the UK government introducing the 5p levy for single-use plastic bags from 2015 and many fashion retailers offering money off for donating clothing or textiles back to them.

Don’t Look Up features a profit-driven tech CEO who uses data to predict that the comet, which is hurtling towards Earth, will contain valuable elements which can be used to boost his wealth if he can harvest it. Through his connections and status, he convinces the fictional US government to not act as he will share some of the profits with their elite.

In connection to the COVID-19 pandemic, recent news has shown Downing Street in breach of COVID-19 rules and regulations during the height of the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic period, ordinary citizens have been fined for not following guidelines, however, the same actions have not been implemented for those in positions of power.


When the scientists present their discovery to the US government, a timeline of six months is stated. Yet, the closer that deadline approaches, the more disastrous the effects will be, but they have enough time to try altering the comet’s trajectory and save all life on Earth from extinction.

However, this was not achieved and as the film draws to an end and the imminent collision is about to happen, a cycle of people all around the world can be seen. From people in rural African villages to those in western cities, the effect of the collision is displayed on screen for viewers to watch as the world ceases to exist.

Being two years since the coronavirus pandemic has become known to the public, many people still refuse to wear face coverings or adhere to guidelines set out with the advice from medical experts. Whilst it is known that coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person without present symptoms, people refusing to take the necessary precautions to reduce the infection rate contribute to the spike in cases. In turn, this launches a train reaction which usually only causes harm to vulnerable people. In this case, those who cannot wear a mask due to medical or physical disabilities.

The UK has surpassed 150 000 in coronavirus-related deaths since late 2019, and this number will continue to grow.

The same can be said about the environment, everyone can do a little to collectively make a big impact. Whilst the impact may not be seen by everyone, especially comfortable city dwellers, those working closely with the environment or indigenous groups that are heavily reliant on the natural world for food and shelter, are the ones that will be the most in contact with the depleting environmental state.

Whist the overt portrayal of the film’s message has angered film snobs, it vividly conveys two of the strongest similarities surrounding both the coronavirus pandemic and the climate emergency. By emphasising how large companies and governments play the biggest role in offsetting change and how vulnerable people are put at the most risk when others deny scientific facts and evidence, audiences are to distinctly see the sameness between the fictional world and our current one.

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Global Studies student selected as CNN Hero

Writes Postgraduate International Development student Jenifer Colpas Fernández

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

International Development student and Tierra Grata CEO Jenifer Colpas Fernández was selected as CNN Hero this year, in recognition of her remarkable work in Colombia, which has helped provide access to clean energy, water and safe sanitation to rural communities through decentralized, affordable and non-polluting solutions.

CNN Hero Jenifer Colpas Fernández

Taking a shower at night and often with clothes, or practicing open defecation because you are afraid that someone will approach you, is a feeling that thousands of rural women experience due to the lack of access to safe bathrooms in Colombia and beyond.

Being aware of this situation, which occurs daily in the most remote rural communities of my country, Colombia, made me take the decision (6 years ago) to dedicate my life to developing and implementing solutions to improve people’s sense of dignity and well-being, while providing them with opportunities through access to basic services of clean energy and safe water and sanitation.

To date, we have reached more than 12 thousand users, with the implementation of more than 1,300 solutions, in more than 40 rural communities. Furthermore, we have gained the recognition of international organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UN Environment, and more recently CNN Heroes.

Tierra Grata team is made up of people passionate about rural development, committed to providing what is essential to everyone.

Our mission is to provide people with essential products and services, and we will continue working until each person who lives in rural communities wakes up every day to live and fulfil their dreams, not to just manage to survive.

CNN Heroes is a contest during which CNN selects people from around the world that are doing great things. The winner of the contest will be the hero with the majority of votes so Jenifer needs our support. Voting ends on the 7th of December. You get 10 votes, every day, to help your favourite heroes. Vote today, come back tomorrow for 10 more votes. Vote again every day until December 7th.

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Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Writes International Development student Hannah Gardner 

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

I absolutely love Christmas! But hate the waste it brings. Want to enjoy Christmas without the waste? Read on…  

Appeasing the societal pressure

With so many years of commercialism heaving down on the holiday, it’s easy to feel the pressure to buy gifts for your loved (or less loved) ones. Not that gift-giving is inherently wrong, it’s just that when we’re not sure what to get someone, (and I’m speaking for myself here) we can often buy them something just for the sake of it, to appease the societal pressure.

Something my sister does is *not* giving Christmas gifts if she can’t think of anything meaningful to get for someone. Instead, she gives gifts randomly, when she sees something a certain person would like or need. This makes gifts much more special, loudly conveying a depth of thought.

However, I know this may not be the most conventional approach, and many of us will still feel the pressure to follow the norm. One way to avoid buying arbitrary gifts, is to turn to charity gift cards, such as those offered by Oxfam. Oxfam sell various gift cards, from “Food for a Family” for £10, to a larger gift like “Safe Water for a Community” for £50. Check out their ethical gift guide. Another way of thoughtful gift-giving, is to make waste-free Christmas treats, like gingerbread. Baking for friends, family and colleagues saves you from the trap of capitalism, and keeps the money in your wallet!  

The wrapping paper trap

When we do have gifts to give, the next trap we often fall into is the issue of wrapping paper. While a fun way to present your gift, wrapping paper usually ends up in landfill.

Although, again, we might feel some sort of societal pressure to present gifts in a certain way, wrapping paper isn’t an imperative part of gift giving - you can give naked gifts! 

Alternatively, some ways I’ve wrapped gifts in the past included using the patterned loo-roll paper from Who Gives A Crap. And lastly, there’s never really a need for sticky-tape, use twine or ribbon. My sister wraps gifts in scarfs sometimes; that’s a win-win as you get to keep the scarf too!  

Hopefully these tips have been helpful, but if nothing else, one way to keep it greener this Christmas is to ask yourself if there’s a more sustainable way to approach the situation in every decision you face. Little changes make all the difference – be proud of yourself for even the smallest of switches!  

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