While Athens is burning…

10.11.2011 | Petr Lang

The debt crisis paralysing the EU has not constrained its environmental zeal. Quite the contrary. While in the midst of the gravest crisis that threatens the very foundations of the Union, the EU is getting more assertive in its fight against climate change. Although, one should welcome the underlying reasoning of these activities - that mitigating the consequences of global warming is an overriding topic,  EU officials dealing with environmental and energy strategies would do better to take a pause for a while. 

Take the recently leaked draft of the EU’s “Energy Roadmap to 2050.” The draft introduces several decarbonisation scenarios based on different energy mixes and expected impacts on energy bills. The good thing is that the leaked draft does not shy away from any important energy source or technology, including nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The unfortunate outcome is that all scenarios presented imply rising energy bills. Under the “high renewables” scenario the households bills could increase by 100% by 2050. 

It is true that “the age of cheap energy is over” and the energy infrastructure needs to be upgraded. But the timing for introducing such visionary strategies is bad. Decarbonising the EU has to be economically sustainable and should not endanger its global competitiveness. The correlation between economic growth and climate change policies, as expressed by Roger Pielke’s “iron law” of climate politics, still holds true. George Osborne, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, recently refused to put his country on hold because of the ambitious environmental agenda. 

The more practical objection against the EU’s Roadmap is that these calculations derive from a modeling software that is privately owned by one Greek University and thus unavailable for testing by other parties.  An independent review commission headed by Dieter Helm rightly points out this absolute lack of transparency.   Who would bet billions of future investments on a model based on a single and nontransparent source?  The EU should take a pause.  Businessmen and the general public tend to think green only when they are not in the red. 

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