The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
EU Leaders Weigh Green Goals against Growth

A leaked document shows that EU leaders are thinking about putting the brakes on their green ambitions in favor of growth-inducing policies. A 2008 EU law requires the bloc to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020. Wide-eyed green optimists hoped the EU would set 40 percent reduction goals for 2030. But as lawmakers prepare to draft those targets (a first draft is due by the end of this year), the Eurozone’s debt crisis and austerity budgets are tempering that outlook. The Wall Street Journal reports:

With the region still languishing in recession, battling a debt crisis and suffering high unemployment while leading companies in key industrial sectors complaining of the cost of implementing climate change initiatives, the paper from the European Commission, the EU executive, reflects concerns about whether Europe should or can sign up to stringent new carbon emission reduction targets. [...]

Five years ago, the 27-country bloc set binding targets to cut its greenhouse gas emissions…But since that decision economic and financial problems have shifted priorities dramatically. Policy makers focused on saving the euro zone, national governments cut budgets, including incentives for clean energy developments, and companies stressed the cost of the climate policies for their recession-hit businesses.

The European Environmental Agency (EEA) estimates that by 2010, the latest year for which hard data is available, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU’s 27 member states were down 15.4 percent. But EU leaders are well aware that things will only get more difficult going forward. If Europe continues to tighten the lid on its emissions, it runs the risk of scaring away heavy-emitting industries. Europe could use all the growth it can get at the moment. The last thing it needs is policy that makes it less internationally competitive.

Once again, the greens have made a huge political miscalculation by forcing Europe to choose between green policy and economic stability. Unless the greens can come up with a policy that helps the environment while also promoting economic growth, they will continue to experience one embarrassing failure after another.

Coincidentally, America has just such a policy. By embracing shale energy, we’ve been able to curb emissions while boosting our economy with brown jobs.

Naturally, Europe’s greens have already said no to this policy.

[Crumbling euro image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

Published on March 14, 2013 5:55 pm