From the Cold War to a Warm(ing) War? East/West divides in climate policies and popular attitudes

This event is part of the RECET History and Social Sciences Festival "Green Transformations"

Venue: Campus of the University of Vienna („Altes AKH“), festival tent in Hof 1

Position of the tent:

Roundtable discussion with Madis Vasser (Estonian Green Movement - FoE Estonia), Michal Kolmaš (Institute of International Relations, MUP Prague), Stephan Renner (Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology), Magdalena Davis (Head of Environment Department, People in Need Czechia), moderated by Anna Durnová (Department of Sociology, University of Vienna)

Climate change and environmental degradation are problems that affect all of Europe, yet the continent seems divided over the nature of the issue and the necessary instruments to mitigate and adapt. The Eurobarometer 2023 survey on climate change reveals a significant gap in public opinion between the former communist East and the West of Europe: In Estonia, for example, only 45% of the population consider climate change to be a "very serious problem", in Czechia, 48% do so–the EU27 average is 77% (and in Austria, 62% hold this view). Policymakers also seem to evaluate climate issues differently. The argument sometimes goes that stakeholders in the former communist East tend to worry more about the negative economic effects of the green transformation. How can we make sense of these differences, from a a historical, sociological, as well as from a civil society and democracy perspective? This panel brings together experts from the social sciences, from policymaking, and from civil society, to discuss this question and its implications for the future of the green transformation.

Madis Vasser has been working with the Estonian Green Movement for 6 years on the just transition to carbon neutrality in Estonia.

Michal Kolmaš is an Associate Professor at Metropolitan University Prague and the editor-in-chief of the Czech Journal of International Relations. A trained political scientist, Michal publishes on the interaction of environmental politics and social norms in various parts of the world. 

Stephan Renner is advisor on energy and climate to the Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Ms Leonore Gewessler. He is a trained mechanical engineer, then studied Political Science (University of Vienna, Institute for Advanced Studies) and obtained his PhD at the University of Vienna. Before his work in the minister's cabinet, he worked as a project officer in the European Commission, as an expert in energy economics and energy policy at the Austrian Energy Agency and as lecturer at the University of Vienna.

Magdalena Davis, MSc, PhD, is a Czech climate program director in People in Need (PIN), an international NGO based in the Czech Republic. Magdalena manages a team of coordinators, internal experts and external partners in PIN's environmental and climate-related projects. The team focuses on nature-based solutions, climate-change education and landscape adaptation and mitigation methodologies that involve active participation of municipalities, civil society and other stakeholders. Magdalena has had practical experience in local politics, too, serving as a Mayor in a municipality of Mníšek pod Brdy from 2018-2022 and using participatory tools such as participatory budgeting for citizen-endorsed projects, strategic planning and participatory public events. 

Anna Durnová, Professor of Political Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Vienna. She is also a Faculty Fellow at the Yale University Center for Cultural Sociology. She serves as a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Policy & Politics and vice president of the International Public Policy Association. Previously, she was a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna (Elise Richter Fellow), as well as at Charles University in Prague and the University of Lyon. Numerous international stays, including Visiting Research Fellow at Concordia University in Montreal (2019) or Essex University in the UK (2012). Research interests: political sociology, sociology of emotions, public policy, feminist sociology, women's health and sociology of the body, interpretive social research.