Last week the EU submitted its woefully inadequate 20% CO2 reduction target to the UN’s Yvo de Boer. It comes at a time when there is an increasingly unpleasant confidence in the proclamations of the world’s climate sceptics. In advance of the Copenhagen talks they must have been very pleased with themselves after securing vast coverage for the so-called climate gate scandal which revealed that, shock horror, some evidence might not 100% back all of the IPCC findings. Of course this has never happened before in science, a field where evidence and data is constantly reassessed, retested and revised. And where the theories of Copernicus, Newton and Einstein’s were always met with complete unanimity in the scientific work of their peers!
More recently it’s been the fact that a exaggerated claim that Himalayan Glaciers might melt entirely that the sceptics have been all over like a rash. Forget the fact that what is at question is the rate of melting, not the fact that they are melting! But if anything is clear from all collective ‘gnashing of teeth’, it is that there is a real appetite for stories that allow people to believe that climate change isn’t a threat. And that is in no small part due to the fear that dealing with climate change is going to cost us all an inordinate amount of money and will be very painful the way we live.
We suggest the opposite – it will actually be pretty expensive and painful to do nothing on climate change, whether or not you believe in it. So climate sceptics, read on (if you’ve read this far), for three reasons you might want to join our campaign for the EU to move to reduce its emissions by at least 30%.
1. Fossil fuels are running out.
This means that as time goes on that prices will rise and will be increasingly volatile. Countries with large oil and gas supplies will be able – if they choose – to hold the EU to ransom. So the lovely things that the Green movement wants to stop you doing, like driving a big car, having an outdoor patio heater or just leaving your TV on standby; will at some point in the future, become too expensive for you to do anyway! But of course if we wait till this scenario occurs – not only will we have missed the opportunity to stop runaway climate change, we’ll also face much higher costs in generating the clean power that everyone will be demanding.
The Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt put it well when he observed the following. ‘The Ukraine uses energy about three times less efficiently than EU countries on average. Studies demonstrate that if Ukraine’s energy efficiency could reach the level of countries like Slovenia and the Czech Republic, Ukraine would come close to being independent of gas imports from Russia.’ For the EU, energy security has long been a critical priority – but at the moment, the policies to stop it becoming the geopolitical issue of the future are not in place.
2. We could make a lot of money from our plentiful natural sources of energy in the EU
Where oil is in the ground there are wells, where gas is present there are pipelines but where natural sources of energy are plentiful, there is often nothing. The fact is that when we consider that wind can make electricity, it starts to have an asset value. Just like oil, gas and coal you need investment to extract its value – but there is money to be made. This seems to escape many climate sceptics – that by failing to invest in renewable power generation, we are effectively ignoring huge sources of revenue and growth. Oil companies invest inordinate sums in finding new sources of the black stuff so what’s stopping them from looking for areas with high winds or strong sunshine? Simply put, it probably doesn’t fit the business plan. Companies like doing what they know best, what they have already done before and what they have the infrastructure to do. New ideas and technologies cost money in initial outlay before they start to pay off – and shareholders may prefer short term gains to such long term investments.
3. We need jobs in the EU
New technologies mean new jobs – the question is, where will these jobs be located? At the moment China is one of the countries taking the lead in developing large scale production of wind turbines and solar panels . In 2009 global investment in renewable energy overtook investment in fossil fuel base infrastructure for the first time this was largely due to a 27% increase in investment in China with European investment static. Germany has been successfully in creating thousands of jobs in clean energy, but with the current EU policy climate not providing a strong carbon price, or tough targets which would incentivise further growth of this sector whether Germany or the EU can keep up with the pace of green industries is in question.
One of the problems is that traditional industries have always been quick to raise the spectre of job cuts if climate legislation is too strong. For instance, last week Gordan Moffat of Eurofer, the steel industry’s professional body claimed the following; “Steel already has to reduce its emissions in 2020 compared to 1990 by over 40% due to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Another 10% would be fatal”. A citation alludes to the 430,000 jobs at stake. But in reality our analysis of emissions trading shows that the steel industry has been given more free permits to pollute than it has required for every year the scheme has been running. Many companies have been making windfall profits – in particular, [ArcelorMittal, the biggest steelmaker of all who reportedly threatened to cut thousands of jobs if they did not receive generous allocations of free permits and who now stand to make up to £1 billion from the scheme](http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/industrials/article6945991.ece “”). Heavy industry has wisely realised the importance of getting a good deal on climate policies and EU officials and politicians have taken many steps to help them avoid feeling any impact. The problem is that doing this is both costly to EU taxpayers, detrimental to the environment and puts our chances of winning new jobs to the EU at risk. And the generous treatment has not stopped industry cutting jobs in EU as many workers will testify to.
So even if you’re not convinced by the climate science – [sign our petition for the EU to do more on climate change](http://www.sandbag.org.uk/notdoneyet “”). Avaaz reported popping of champagne corks amongst industry at the end of the Copenhagen talks – at Sandbag we imagine the Moet was out again last week. But with EU leaders are due to meet again on the 11th February the issue will be discussed again. Some leaders back stronger targets, but for a collective EU decision to be reached we need more pressure. So lets make sure toether that there’s no more champagne corks popping this month.