14 February, 2008
Two days ago I took part in a debate on Europe’s progress towards a low-carbon economy. Some of the participants in the meeting defended the thesis that ONLY Europe can lead in the fight against climate change. I think this is complete nonsense.
Europe might lead in political rhetoric about climate targets but its achievements tell another story. You don’t make effective policy by formulating targets on the basis of nice alliterations (20-20-20 by 2020). What is much more important is to see what is happening on the ground. Have companies changed technologies as a result of the EU’s emissions trading scheme? Hardly. Most of them have made big windfall profits but where are the investments in clean technologies?
Where are the European venture capitalists who can match the US new investment boom in clean or green tech? Why is it that three American financial institutions (and not European ones) have recently formulated new guidelines to strengthen environmental and climate/energy risk management for the financial sector (the Carbon Principles). Where are the European big mega-projects to build new eco-cities such as Abu Dhabi’s Masdar or China’s Dongtan?
I believe awareness about climate change is indeed much higher in Europe than anywhere else but between awareness and effective action there is a huge gap. This has something to do, I guess, with Europe’s fear of risk-taking and change (also in business circles) and the close coalition between political and economic players which leads to “business as much as usual” policies. Another weakness is Europe’s lack of entrepreneurship (where are the European “ecopreneurs”?) and of venture capitalists.
Leadership needs courage, self-confidence and risk, three qualities which are not much present in European policy-making circles.Author : Willy De Backer