By Stefano Mallia, President of the EESC Employers' Group

Wildfires have been raging across several countries in southern Europe this summer, destroying homes and coastal resorts and turning vast forest areas into blackened wastelands, while floods have been hitting Slovenia. Climate events are not a new phenomenon in Europe, but they have increased in intensity, both here in Europe and elsewhere. There is no doubt that climate change is making these phenomena more frequent and more extreme.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis, efforts aimed at tackling climate change and embarking on a genuine green transition in Europe have been somewhat hampered.

Some Member States have adopted a number of measures which are de facto delaying the phasing out of fossil fuel extraction operations or are even investing in new operations of this type to meet their energy needs. Such behaviour sends out confusing messages, not only to the people of Europe but also to third countries, which could use this to justify delays in their own transitions. All this could clearly jeopardise this year's COP28 summit, where countries are meant to clinch a deal on phasing out the use of CO2-emitting fossil fuels.

This is why the EU must maintain a coherent, consistent approach to climate policy. We must practise what we preach! Recently the EU has stepped up its work on climate diplomacy, the success of which greatly relies on internal climate policy decisions taken by the EU, but also on effective implementation of the European Green Deal (EGD). Despite the accelerating new geopolitical challenges, the EU must gain deeper insight into the geopolitical aspects of the EGD. That calls for a fresh, robust and credible strategy to adjust EU climate diplomacy to the current geopolitical landscape.

Where do we start? At the EESC, we believe that we should enrich the climate diplomacy toolbox with initiatives aiming not only to raise climate ambitions but also to share the EU's experience and address climate-related risks.

To operationalise climate diplomacy we should take advantage of its multilevel nature. The creation of a Civil Society Diplomacy Network could be a starting point.

As we move forward, there is no time to waste if we want to avoid irreparable damage. Climate diplomacy is preventive diplomacy. That is why there is clearly an urgent need to upgrade climate diplomacy, making it the flagship action of the EU's external affairs and foreign policy.