green-techThe EU has long-prided itself on being a “leader” when it comes to green technologies and renewable energy. In fact, some see “green growth” as being the solution to Europe’s economic woes. Should Europe cling on to its competitive edge when it comes to green tech? Or should it start exporting these technologies internationally, in the form of development aid? This was the question raised by one of our commenters, Nikolai, in a debate last month. We’ve been taking this question, along with others posed by our readers, to European policy-makers to hear their reactions.

This week, we spoke to Jarosław Pietras, Director General of Climate Change and the Environment at the Council of the European Union, and asked him for his reaction. Firstly, we had a comment from Michael arguing that the “environment needs funds which are not available at the moment. Consequently we have to focus on what will provide us with these funds and that is the real economy. First things first.” Would you agree with Michael that the short-term priority should be restoring economic growth?

When Michael says there is a problem of financing, I think that is a clue to the issue; if the environment is considered only as expenditure, then you can afford it only when you have a good economy and good growth. But I think it should be internalised so it’s seen as part of the cost of operation. So when you take water you pay for it; when you dump waste you pay for it; when you use air and dump pollution into the atmosphere, you pay for it. Then it’s much easier to put the recovery in such a manner that it addresses these inter-related issues.

We also had a comment from Enrique arguing that in a “finite planet we cannot grow infinitely. In the face of growing scarcity of cheap resources… we must change the way the economy operates to extend the useful life of all material elements through mandatory legislation.

It’s an important point that Enrique is making. But first one has to see that it’s not only green growth for wealthy people, it’s green growth globally. You’ve got countries that still need to grow; the problem is if they’re growing and immitating or emulating rich countries like the US or Japan, then the resources of the planet will be used in a very inneffective manner. One has to find new approaches to both the consumption and the production sides.

What about Enrique’s other point? That we need a new international legal framework to cope with the environmental challenges we are facing?

He says we need new regulations, but we have plenty of examples of regulations with good intentions that resulted in negative and unanticipated outcomes for the environment. If you look at biofuels, for example, they initially looked very positive for both the economy and the environment. However, there were other effects – such as taking up necessary land for food crops, deforestation, and releasing plenty of carbon dioxide into the environment. Not all of the consequences were predicted. You cannot rely solely on regulation.

Next we had Nikolai, who wondered suggested that “maybe aid, internal and foreign policy development should never take the form of cash incentives but always take the form of exporting energy and resource saving technology at the beginning of any development engagement?” What do you think of Nikolai’s suggestion? Should more aid take the form of technology transfers, especially in terms of green technology?

Aid is an important compoment of policy; it’s kind of a global expression of solidarity. The problem, and probably what Nikolai indicates, is if you offer aid it can create negative effects. Money can be used by local authorities, local groups and businesses; sometimes not appropriately, sometimes creating corruption. I think the idea of technology transfers is a valid point, it should be done. But it cannot be offered without money as well. It somehow has to be financed – and it’s not always good if someone from outside selects all the technology to be transferred.

What do YOU think? Do you agree that the environment and the economy should be seen as two sides of the same coin? Do you support the idea that it is in Europe’s interests to export as much green technology as it can around the world? Or should it hold on to its competitive edge in this field? And do we need new international laws to control how we use the planet’s resources? Or do too many regulations cause more harm than good? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – slimmer_jimmer

10 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    As you kindly picked up on my point of employing (green) technology as aid rather than simply monetary transfers, and indeed Mr Pietras is astutely understanding my point of maladministration or nefarious theft when it comes to monetary aid, I am pleased he is in agreement with me that technology transfers “should be done”. So will it be done?

    If it is to be done, will it be done as an EU stand alone project or part of a coordinated effort with UN, DfID, NGOs and charities to be effectively incorporated into a “national policy” (for the receiving nation) by all donors?

    With soft power and European sensibilities the only EU carrots and sticks when it comes to EU FP, surely tangible technology and energy saving/alternative/green technology meets those European sensitivities, long term trade enhancement (through maintenance cycles of that technology), increased production demand to EU manufacturers for products to be ultimately used within a coordinated EU FP as aid etc etc whilst helping the cause of climate change outside the EU geographical area.

    That is not to say there aren’t issues with international aid and international development. Tough choices have to be made in such areas even on the ground. Do you ignore the immediate and easily remedied broken windows and lack of electricity at a local school in order to concentrate on a national programme that may take a year or more to create and implement, or do you fix it there and then diverting some time away from that programme creation and implementation making it 2 or more years to get off the drawing board as ever increasing immediate easy remedies present themselves in localities you pass through assessing the national needs?

    Those at that school want it doing now and know it is easily remedied and their lives improved immediately, but there are bigger national problems to address. Dilemma!

    I can think of little that meets all European sensitivities, global needs, a method of encouraging EU market stimulus in all things “green”, than exporting green energy tech as part of EU FP aid.

    Aside from food and water, I can also think of little more welcomed by communities than electricity (generated by methods that doesn’t completely ruin their environment in the process.)

    As the US aid programmes are almost always associated with keeping its military industrial complex working, maybe EU aid programmes should almost always be associated with “green energy technology and production.”

    I suspect there is far less chance of a government repressing its people by misusing a solar panel than there is a tank and I suspect many citizens of nations receiving EU aid would appreciate lighting by green energy rather than phosphorous shells.

    Just a thinking out loud you understand.

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Well first let us see producing the green energy components (amen to that) using them for our own energy needs (amen to that), becoming greener and energy efficient ourselves first (amen to that) and then we can export it to the world or encourage or inspire others to follow our example and buy our components…In other words I agree with the topic, but I see a tortoise’s action by most of our governments on this so far…

  3. avatar
    Michael Tsikalakis

    I would prefer to export (sell) rather than donate such a technology, because Europe will have extra funds to finance Environmental projects and this, eventually, will be good for everyone and even more for the planet. The problem is to persuade countries to follow the green path.
    International “laws” are valid and consequently useful if they are accepted from every one, otherwise they don’t help and they are not laws. I think that they should be named as directives rather than laws. But the etymology of the word is not the case here. The fact is that not every country is environmentally sensitive to invest “green” in a long run. This, of course, is not fair for the green countries. We have an issue here.!

  4. avatar
    Raul Pop

    no matter the topic, EU still fails to implement. Policy making is one, implementation and impact is still too far. As long as virtually all implementation has to pass through the member states layers of bureaucracy

  5. avatar
    Raul Pop

    … the impact will be dilluted and delayed. I believe there can be found a mid-way between efficacity and sovereignity, but activity has to be cut in thin vertical layers and IMPOSED. It’s the same principle which started the Steel and Coal Organization in the 50ies.

  6. avatar
    Ayşegül Akbay

    Everything still has a price.. May anyone volunteer for a professional post? There is a cost for things.. Let us be more realistic! Only information is almost free not hiring a worker!

  7. avatar
    David Fernandes Coelho

    Is Europe the planet earth i dont think so the quiker the rest of the world get the technology the less the world climate will change or is that not so.

  8. avatar
    Nolan Galea

    I think before sharing green technology we must first develop it for ourselves. Meaning that with the current low efficiency of conversion of solar energy into electrical energy (its still very low i believe around 30%) we should finance the experimental PhotoVoltaic (Quantum Dot PV) and once this is viable for mass production, the average consumption of a house should be calculated and PV to be installed. By doing so, even though the initial cost of this project would be very expensive (not that with the current Eurozone Crisis anything will happen) as the whole concept of sustainability lies in long term planning for future generations, if every household hosts a set of PV, there wouldn’t be the need for any nuclear powerplants. If every house reduces the load of electricity by 50% which reduces the overall impact on the environment.

    Definition of donating means giving for free, something which i believe should not be considered in the Union’s current position!

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