C4E Forum: Piercing the “bubbles” since 2016
As the world slowly seems to be coming to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are getting ready for C4E Forum 2021. This time in a beautiful location in Romanian Transylvanian mountains near Poiana Brasov on 21-24 September.
It will be a great opportunity to pierce some proverbial bubbles, which is always needed, but has perhaps never been so strong as now after one and half year of pandemic, which relegated us behind the screens without personal contact and thus only helped strengthen our silos and echo chambers.
What is C4E?
C4E stands for Central and Eastern European Energy Efficiency and it takes different forms, but always trying to “pierce bubbles”. Of course the most notable is the C4E Forum, a bi-annual event which took place for the first time in 2016 in Balchik, Bulgaria and then in 2018 in Serock, Poland.
2020 edition had to be postponed but it is now finally happening! And as before, it will bring together all kinds of stakeholders from governments, NGOs, businesses, think-tanks, finance world and trade associations from across the CEE region but also from EU to meet and discuss policies, programs and projects in energy efficiency area.
C4E also took a form of webinar few times. In October 2020 we discussed the freshly unveiled Renovation Wave with Commissioner Kadri Simson and officials of several national governments.
In June 2021 we focused on how to make Renovation Wave reality given all the funding earmarked for this. The last webinar brought some interesting polls and I would like to look at them a bit more closely in the spirit of “piercing bubbles”.
CEE and EU bubbles
We asked participants two poll questions and after the event we were able to compare the answers by people from the CEE region on one hand and from EU and “the West” on the other hand. (Both questions allowed multiple answers, so the total is higher than 100%.)
In the first question we asked: How could the European Commission support Member States in delivering higher rate and depth of renovation?
The results were interesting:
On some issues of medium importance like reinforcing implementation of existing regulation or reduction of administrative burden we see relative agreement.
But our two “bubbles” seemed to have very different opinions about the key issues. The “EU/West bubble” perhaps unsurprisingly put a lot of emphasis on the role of EU: targeted assistance to national authorities in implementation and also policy revisions at EU level rank very high.
On the contrary, the “CEE bubble” wanted to prioritize specific support for project development and solving the state aid issues.
The second question was: What should national governments do with Recovery Plan and Cohesion funds to increase speed and depth of renovation?
There was robust agreement on the necessity of long-term stability of programs. Both groups also emphasised increased allocation of funds for renovation and stimulating private money.
“CEE bubble” put a much higher priority on progressive subsidy, i.e. the deeper the renovation, the higher the subsidy. “EU bubble” emphasised much more technical assistance capacity, which CEE colleagues surprisingly didn’t rank that high, despite prioritizing project development support in the previous question. Presumably, different interpretation of different terms could play a role here.
On some questions we can see almost complete disconnect. CEE participants voted for example for simplification of application process and increased subsidy levels, which EU participants didn’t find compelling. Conversely, EU participants emphasised integrating broader sustainability and quality aspects into renovation program and raising awareness.
Of course, we have to take these polls with a big grain of salt. The numbers are not representative and voting during the webinar doesn’t allow for full and deep reflection.
But I do believe the polls indicate the differences that emerge if we stay too closed in our own silos and forget to look beyond them. There is never enough of talking with one another across different borders–geographical ones as well as cultural and mental ones.
This year, we hope to contribute to breaking the silos and piercing the bubbles a little bit at the C4E Forum 2021. See you there! We have an especially beautiful location this time. It takes a bit of time to get there, but it’s 100% worth it!
Member of organizing committee