3E Intelligence

The Spring Summit of European political leaders has been another showcase of why this generation of policymakers will be unable to deal with the current climate-energy chaos. Although the 27 decided to support the Commission’s climate/energy package, short-term protection of European (or better German, French, and other national) economic interests and jobs is still much more a priority for politicians who are incapable of thinking beyond their potential next term in office.

The caving in of Chancellor Merkel to big old industry’s scaremongering about “carbon leakage” (read “delocalisation”) is particularly significant, as the same Mrs Merkel less than one year ago (at Heiligendamm) was hailed as the new “Valkyrie” in the war against climate change.

It is remarkable how fast certain interests have been able to hegemonise the “carbon leakage” rhetoric and how supposedly “smart” politicians have fallen back to their old reference frameworks(their competitiveness or Lisbon paradigm) to water down one of the key elements of Europe’s so-called leadership on climate change: the European emission trading scheme. Continuing to give free emission allowances to these industries will, in the long run, mean the collapse of the whole emission trading system itself. But why care? Après moi, le déluge. Have politicians not learned any lessons from their coal “débacles” in the 80s?

As far as I know, no serious scientific study has been undertaken or initiated to determine the real dangers of the climate delocalisation. Carbon leakage is indeed a problem but it would be helpful if the EU could do some serious impact assessment before believing the exaggerated horror stories which are now distorting the political discourse on these issues.

Moreover, by promising free carbon allowances to its heavy industries, the European leaders will probably undermine any future American plans for a similar cap-and trade system. All three candidates for the US Presidency have planned 100% auctioning of carbon allowances once they would be US President. Does anyone believe this will happen now that the European so-called climate change leaders have gone chicken?

Putting the building blocks in place for a smooth transition to the new sustainable and post-oil energy future will require no less than a monumental global coordination effort of ALL economic superpowers. When these superpowers will continue to put their own short-term interests higher than the long-term survival chances of our global civilisation, then James Lovelock’s Cassandra call will come true and Gaia will have its revenge.

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  1. I think that the ship is gone when you are talking about a cap-and-trade system which has failed under the Kyoto protocol. I think there is a considerable consensus around the carbon tax, the cheapest and least distorting way to reduce emissions. While cap-and-trade might have worked with sulfur-dioxide, there was a chance for real trade-offs and substitutions. This is not really the case with carbon-dioxide. The cap-and-trade system is not economically efficient and it is less so if you hand out free quotas. It is not a move towards competitiveness. It is a move towards something similar to Europe’s milk ‘market’.

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