On 22-24 March, Jürgen visited Juneau, the capital of Alaska, where he was one of 8 invited speakers at the annual World Affairs Forum. The title of this year’s forum was Europe: Allies and Alliances in a Turbulent World and was dedicated to the future of the EU and its relations with the USA. The conference was organised by the local branch of the World Affairs Council and hosted by the University of Alaska Southeast. The conference was followed by a local TV station.
The World Forum was an excellent opportunity for him to reflect on the current state of the European Union while interacting with to American and Canadian scholars who presented their research about different areas of European and international affairs, such as security, defense, international law, economics and trade policy. The audience was very engaged and peppered the speakers with questions during the different sessions.
After his talk on climate and energy policy in the European Union, Jürgen participated together with the other speakers in a panel discussion that ended the three-day forum. The panel discussed many questions from the audience including on immigration, the EU’s relations with Turkey, the effects of Brexit on the Union, and how the USA and if the EU could re-establish a common set of normative rules to guide their future relations.
The visit to Juneau was also a unique chance for Jürgen to see with his own eyes how global warming is affecting the Arctic and meet with local climate activists. Climate change poses a particular challenge for Alaska as the state is heavily dependent on oil and gas production for its economy at the same time because of its location in the Arctic.
The hosts organized a guided tour to the local research station of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) Fisheries’ Service. The guide explained how the NOAA is monitoring the effects of global warming and climate change on fisheries and sea mammal life in the North Pacific and Arctic Seas. Jürgen also visited the Mendenhall glacier north of Juneau, which has receded 12 miles since 1958. It was a striking experience to see the lake that has formed at the foot of the glacier in the past decades as a result of the melting ice.
During his visit to Juneau, Jürgen was invited to a lunch discussion with a local climate action group, Juneau 350.org. Over the lunch, members of the group told him about their work to convince the trustees of Alaska Permanent Fund to divest its assets in coal, oil and gas companies. The fund was started in 1976 with the revenues from Alaska’s oil sector and pays annual dividends to all state citizens. The local group argues that such companies are risky financial investments as they are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable.
We are coming up on the end of Jürgen’s time here at the Center for West European Studies! He’ll be traveling to Olympia to speak to a State Senate Committee, and to the University of British Columbia before he prepares to head back to Brussels to continue his work as a policy officer at the EU Commission.