26 September, 2008
A friend of mine reacted to my previous post (Let’s get the climate panic started!) with the following “inconvenient” questions:
“- will the current financial crisis spill over and affect the strong EU policy focus on climate change & energy? Could it shift priorities for the December or the Spring Summit? And for the EP and Commission mandates?
– what does the public opinion wish most? A Treaty? A new European Parliament? A CO2 reduction to protect bees & bears? Or a stable economy?”
Here are my answers:
- Of course, the current financial crisis will undermine the climate/energy package. Politics these days has become completely “reactionary” as in ” to react to” and has little to do with long-term thinking and vision as in visioning the future. Even the current interest of the EU in climate change was not the result of looking at the science but came about as a result of the highly political Stern report and the focus on energy security has more to do with the Russian bear’s growling in the Ukraine and Georgia than with a real understanding of the new resource scarcity. And now a new threat has hijacked the political agenda and the media: the Fanny and Freddy scare.
- It did not need the financial crisis to water down the climate/energy package. The German and Polish governments did already strangle it long ago. What the French EU Presidency tries to do is just face-saving and token politics;
- My friend’s question: “what does public opinion wish most” is SO interesting. Leadership to me means leading, which includes seeing what others have not yet grasped and then dealing with it before it becomes a calamity. The answer, suggested by my friend, says it all: “a CO2 reduction to protect bees and bears”. Astonishing? Of course not: for 90% of our decision-makers (in politics as well as business), environment equals “the birds and the bees and maybe the bears” (cute, no?). The link between our life (and therefore our economy) on Earth and the ecosystems and services provided by nature still eludes them. Once the economy makes more money, we will save the birds, the bees, and the air that we breathe. And if not, we do not need them. We can breathe money, I suppose.
- A stable economy? This crisis has little to do with the economy. This is a crisis of greed and of financial innovation gone wrong. In the real economy, lots of good companies and people are still working hard and delivering great products and services. They will now be punished as a result of the market fundamentalism which believed paradise is built on easy credit.
- The climate/energy crisis might disappear from the political urgency agenda but it will not go away. The clock keeps ticking and the window of opportunity becomes smaller each day. History will judge.
Unfortunately, the experts writing about the climate/energy issues are seldom financial experts, nor are the Wall Street commentators knowledgeable about sustainability. Therefore, the analysis of the links between the two crises is seldom made. That said there are a few outstanding blog articles where the right questions are asked:
- The Energy Standard’s article “Financial, Energy or Climate crisis – take your pick” looks at the question what would happen “when the financial system crashed”, “what when the energy system crashed” and “what when the climate system crashed”?
- Sharon Astyk on Casaubon’s Book tries to peel the onion and find food and oil as the ground causes of the financial crisis, and I must say, her arguments seem pretty strong.