Liberal on a limited planet

In this contribution, Sju G. Thorup give us a possible liberal point of view on how environmental concerns could be included in ALDE’s policy-making, and she is looking for people who would like to work with her to draft a resolution to this effect.

I believe that ALDE’s policy-making should build on a foundation of environmental concerns. Here I argue why and call for collaborators to a 2017 resolution to reflect this view in the party platform.

I am a proud liberal European. I believe in extensive individual freedom: freedom of conscience, speech and association; freedom to move, work and trade across Europe; freedom of each individual to do as they feel right for them. I believe in democracy: the mutually respectful dialog towards mutually beneficial solutions; the privilege of the majority to make a decision, with a view to the needs of the minority. I believe in the principle of subsidiarity: decisions and actions should be made at the most local level and only be made centrally if that provides the greater benefit for all.

In the last few years the international community has realised that humanity has been over-utilizing the planet. An ever-growing human population has extracted resources and polluted to a greater extent than the Earth can replenish.

10,000 years ago, humans made up 1% of land animals: the rest were all wild. Today, wild animals make up just 1%. The other 99% consist of humans, our farmed animals and our pets. The Earth is heating up and our pollution is everywhere. We should be ashamed to leave the Earth in such state for future generations.

As responsible citizens, Europeans must work to lower CO2 emissions, minimize resource depletion, stop population growth, restore the natural environment and re-establish wildlife. This insight should become a foundation of our policy-making. Liberalism must be moderated by its impact on our planet.

The individual’s freedom should be limited not only by concerns for society, but also with respect to resources, environment and future generations. Individual freedom must be countered by an obligation to allow wildlife to prosper and resources to replenish. Nobody has a right to pollute the Earth or use resources wastefully. Similarly, when we conduct business, we should ensure that environmental costs are not “externalized” for society to clean up later.

All policy proposals should be screened for long-term viability and environmental sustainability. The will of the people must be moderated by concerns for Earth’s resources and biodiversity, and the opportunities of future generations. We, as caring and well-informed citizens, must speak up for this long-term global view.

Lastly, we must remember that actions which may at a first glance seem to have only local consequences can have longer-term consequences on a pan-European or global scale. For instance, the approval to open a coal mine or to fell a forest may seem to be only a question of local concern, but the climate and nature consequences actually impact us all.

I was encouraged by reading Liberal International’s 2017 manifesto. Its statements reflect exactly my view:

Climate change is the greatest environmental threat humanity knows. Its consequences jeopardise freedom and prosperity for many generations to come. Therefore, Liberals believe that wealth has to be created with respect for the limits of a finite planet and by observing the precautionary principle. Avoiding irreversible ecological damage as well as disastrous climate change as a consequence of high greenhouse gas emissions is one of the preconditions for sustainable economic progress. This requires an appropriate international rules-based framework for protecting and making responsible use of the ‘global commons’.”

I was glad to observe that the ALDE 2014 manifesto also includes this basic liberal stance of environmental concern. The manifesto contains visionary statements for Europe to “take the lead in fighting climate change”, “transitioning into sustainable development” and “low-carbon economy”. However, these statements appear only under the headline of creating jobs! And the topic has faded somewhat in the current list of Values and Messages at ALDE’s website. Just one half out of the seven key messages mentions the planet, bundled together with world peace in one feel-good sentence about “Sustainable development and peace in the world”.

ALDE should work more explicitly and boldly to protect our planet. Environmental concerns should not be just one of many competing policy areas.  The acknowledgement that we are citizens of a limited planet should be the foundation for all policy-making. EU has entered the Paris climate accord with an ambitious CO2 pledge. We should enhance that ambition and aim for similar efforts regarding the natural environment, resources, pollution and biodiversity.

For this purpose, I intend to propose a resolution for the ALDE Party Congress 2017. I ask fellow ALDE members to join me in writing this resolution and turning it into party policy. Please get in touch.

Sju G. Thorup


To contact Sju G. Thorup write to sju (at)

M.Sc., MBA, management consultant. Her profession is helping companies succeed with their strategic initiatives, often supported by IT projects, and she has worked with large corporations as well as startups. She was born and lives in Denmark; She lived in France as a child, and in California recently. She is the mother of two wonderful young people. Her professional website:

Cover picture © by Lars Thorup

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s