Zlatimira Colova is the female lead candidate (number 2) for a member of the European Parliament on the List of Volt Bulgaria. Volt is the first political movement to adopt a single election programme for all European countries: The Amsterdam Declaration. The movement, which is present in 32 European countries, wants to build a more democratic Europe able to overcome the daunting challenges facing its citizens.
Where does your interest in climate policy and especially the elections to the European Parliament come from? What is your main motivation?
Despite being 36 years old, I belong to the generation of Millenials. In the past years, I realised that I experience an intergenerational gap. What mine and younger generations value and depict as important to them doesn’t necessarily reflect in our representation. I realised that the gap between me and politicians is because we don’t share the same vision for the future and because I don’t feel represented. Even when striking for climate justice, young people are often labelled as too young or criticized for their look, but the reality is that they are educated, they are connected through social media and exchange informed opinions on the IPCC report for example as well as about the fact that is their generation and the next ones that will most suffer from the irresponsible behaviours of their parents .
Hence, it is very difficult to convince young voters to vote since they don’t feel there is anyone that would voice their concerns and would care for what they care. I experience that younger people are less focused on economic growth and consumerism, attempting to live in a minimalist way, concerned about the future of our planet, with environment protection and conservation, biogas, bioenergy and waste management at the centre. They see the environment as a central player in the fight for clean air, energy security and emissions reduction. In an interconnected world as ours this is indeed the case – our water resources, our oceans are all connected. The consequences concern us all: since 2008, an average of 26.4 million persons around the world have been forcibly displaced by floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts. Predictions are of 660,000 additional asylum seekers coming to Europe each year by 2100. In the future we will have to face more displaced people and climate refugees.
This example is to showcase how events and policies intertwine and we need to focus on long term and sustainable solutions rather than on pre-election quick fixes.
How does your candidature relate to climate change and youth? What are your concrete plans to bring the European Union on a path towards more climate action and reaching the aims of the Paris Agreement?
I endorse the mapping of policies that my party has worked on and if elected will put my energy into materialising our promises. Volt shares youth environmental concerns and for this reason Volt challenges the EU as well as Member State governments to take more concrete actions to reduce dangerous emission by:
- Introducing an EU-wide carbon tax to favour the transition of renewable energy over fossil fuels. The tax needs to be carefully designed to make sure that no one is unduly burdened. The revenues and the cost savings shall be used to fund relevant climate mitigation and adaptation projects.
- Stop subsidizing fossil-based fuels is need to phase out as efficiently as quickly as possible (kerosene, diesel, coal and other fossil-based fuels), including prohibit new permits to drill for fossil fuels.
- Speed up the transition to more environmental friendly energy consumption in the transport sector by means of shared mobility, ban of diesel cars, modernization of the EU transport network as well in the building sector improving the energetic performance of our buildings and support cost-effective energy efficiency measures.
- Incentivize disinvestment strategies of public and private financing form fossil fuels and reorient them towards climate friendly solutions.
- Land preservation, restoration and forest protection are key actions for a bolder and much faster action to reduce our impacts on the environment and curb climate change effects. VOLT intend to enhance and strengthen the agro-climatic measures included in CAP.
Volt in line with the youth environmental movement, requires an increase in the level of ambition of the EU and its members:
- To set the energy saving targets of the energy efficiency directive to a 40% (currently 30%) for 2030, thus to unlock secure investment and create jobs. Furthermore Volt proposes to extend the energy efficiency obligations to the transport sector.
- To really achieve a deep systematic change of the way we produce, transport and use energy, Volt proposes to sustain the research and the development of smart electricity grids at EU Level with enhanced and harmonized financing of relevant infrastructure also at local level, like EU storage systems.
What are the “hot” topics regarding climate change in the upcoming elections?
We support and rally alongside the youth calling for actions to fight climate change. In a little bit over one year, many more young students have joined Greta in his protest and are leading movements in their countries. During the last event in Rome (19th April) many EU young leaders met in Rome. In Denmark, the #FridayForFuture marches have let the youth movements to create a youth climate council (Unge Klima Råd) which submitted their policy ideas to “the adult parties”. There has been already an increase in global mean surface temperature of around 1°C above pre-industrial levels , and the world is currently aiming to a 5–6°C warming at the end of the century and possible feedbacks could accelerate warming to more than 12°C . Youth have been discussing it and their protests are mostly linked to the inaction of governments. Youth campaigns is focused on — taking actions — like the school strike for climate.
There is an increasing number of studies showing that a transition based on 100% renewable energy to meet the Paris Agreement goals is possible. This would be achieved through further deployment of renewable power sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower, development and implementation of storage technologies, transmission grid options, efficient energy grid management integrated in a sector coupled solution with other gas, hydrogen and carbon dioxide grids, power to X systems and sustainable bioenergy limits. Also, the current fossil fuel infrastructure would be used, as by adapting natural gas to support hydrogen and other sustainable fuels and storage gasses/liquids. The establishment could counter-argue:
- Cost of energy and Climate Transition, “We can’t afford it”. IPCC reports predicts that climate change will cost the world up to 20% of global GDP by 2100 if remaining in the “business as usual” scenario. On the contrary taking actions to limit global warming to 1.5 C can leverage 2.4 trillion of investments and according to the international labor organization (ILO) 24 milions jobs . Furthermore appropriate policy tools can help mobilize incremental resources.
- China, USA, India and other countries are still polluting more: India and China are both struggling for deadly pollution levels . China is taking a number of actions to reduce its emissions limiting the use of cars and retnìhinking energetic supplies , and USA is slowly decreasing its dependency on fossil fuels . There are evidences that the USA are also considering the “employment effect” of climate policies as low carbon technologies are more labor intensive.
Yes, we believe that to uphold the EU’s status as a pioneer for climate policy innovation, with all its associated economic advantages, it must seize the opportunity this year to commit to net zero before 2050 and update its 2030 climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement.
To recap: Volt recognize the urgency to fight climate change. The IPCC report draws a clear message: the time for bold climate action is today, not tomorrow and Volt will seek to embody its conclusions into its policy-making. Europe must act to avoid the worse effects of climate change and strive to keep global warming to 1.5°C.
Indeed, we all agree that although there has already been progress in translating the Paris Agreement of 2015 into some specific policies by the European Union and its members, Volt wants to push the energy and climate transition further and calls for a faster and bolder EU response. Volt believes that the best way to achieve this in terms of reduced emissions and costs, efficiency and effectiveness is through a united european plan applied to all of its regions. We want Europe to be an example to the rest of the world, show everyone that it is possible, and be the leader in clean technologies. Volt’s vision is to live in a world in which clean energy is part of the solution. Volt envisions a world where individuals, corporations and public entities take more responsibility for the future of our young generations.
What should young people keep in mind while making their decision in the election?
I think that we should all have access to our politicians, to feel heard and that our concerns are taken into consideration and not being neglected. We are observing the phenomenon of moving away from representative democracy to a participatory one. I personally would like to see more young politicians who are transparent and accountable and care to deliver on their promises (for example Julia Reda). At present, a lot of politicians serve industrial, big business and lobby interests that are not placing citizens in the centre. I believe that the main purpose of the European Union besides being a political and economic policy maker should be to serve its citizens. A leader has to create a more caring and just world. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. (Robert K. Greenleaf). A leader can also be an institution and or an organisation like the European Parliament – driving a change forward, based on the needs and values of the citizens. There should be school subjects on climate change, migration and a forsight on the future global challenges. In order to know what is best for us all, we need to interact more – there shouldn’t be such a distance between politicians and citizens. As politicians are also citizens.
I would vote for a person that I identify with rather than a party list. As it is often people who create change rather than party agendas.
In your opinion, is giving a vote enough?
Countries like Ireland, for example, have applied a very successful model of citizens assemblies. The Citizens’ Assembly is an exercise in deliberative democracy, placing the citizen at the heart of important legal and policy issues facing society. Citizens can vote on what matters to them and give consultation on policy direction. I endorse to have more tools and mechanisms for interaction between politicians and citizens – for example live streaming city council meeting, facebook live and web-streaming of debates that are of greater concern. Another tool could be a collaborative space forum, a blogging and commenting style platform, direct consultations and citizen dialogues. A vote counts, but is not enough. We should all be more informed and involved in the co-creation of our common European future. But it is also up to us to claim our space and take the power in the hands of us as, the Citizens.
Thank you for the interview!