Europeans, overwhelmingly, believe in the importance of environmental sustainability. In a 2015 Eurobarometer poll, 97% of people in the 28 EU Member States agreed that we have a responsibility to look after nature. Yet Europeans also want jobs, prosperity, and economic growth. Can both of these goals be met, or are they in conflict with one another?
To be truly “sustainable” would mean (among other things) reducing Europe’s over-dependence on fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal, thereby cutting CO2 emissions and achieving the climate change goals agreed at the Paris summit in 2015. But green activists argue that it would also mean changing our lifestyles, something difficult to countenance given how used we are to cheap mass consumption.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Marcel, arguing that it was not possible to grow an economy in an environmentally sustainable manner because: “Sustainable growth doesn’t exist. There is no economic growth without population growth.”
In other words, Marcel believes we have to choose between a sustainable environment on the one hand, or economic (and population) growth on the other. Is he right, or is there a way to promote sustainable economic growth?
How would YOU grow Europe’s economy sustainably? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!
Well, let’s take for instance the question of renewable energy sources. If we promote these kinds of alternative sources of energy then we can produce new opportunities for people to work at the same time as preserving the environment. In fact, there are countries that have already done this, such as Denmark, which prove that you can have economic growth and protect the environment at the same time.
We need massive investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency in order to boost Europe’s green economy… I’m completely convinced that sustainability and economic prosperity are not in conflict with one another. The only way to sustain the wealth of the continent is to turn our economy into a low-carbon, very efficient economy, particularly as Europe has few natural resources.
Where we have real competitiveness is technology, innovation, and efficiency in energy and resource use. That’s the way for Europe. We have to be the most innovative, most forward-looking, and the greenest economy globally to be successful. If we cannot do that, it will not only be bad news for the environment, but it will make it impossible for us to be globally economically competitive.
There is a big challenge ahead of us in order to make the shift from where we are today to a green economy. And we need to invest huge amounts into the green sustainable sector so that we can phase out things like petrol-powered automobiles… It will cost a lot of effort, money, and investment. I think we should have done a lot already, and if we wait too long it will be too late. But this is a golden opportunity, inspired by the Paris conference in 2015, to take decisions that might be difficult now but, in the long run, will be beneficial and will foster growth and prosperity for all EU Member States.
I think it’s possible to achieve both, because we have the technology available to produce goods and services with less energy. I think energy efficiency is a key point, and it would create jobs. The money that is now being sent to the oil producers in Saudi Arabia and to Mr. Putin could instead be spent on the European economy, which would serve both the environment and economic growth.
EU climate policy has in the past been too confrontational with industry – emissions reduction has come at the expense of competitiveness. Proposed safeguards to help firms and investment from being forced to move abroad are particularly welcome… The future EU energy market design must ensure fair and open competition via an internal energy market. Competition is starting to take root and Member States’ internal energy systems must adapt to this new reality and be capable of fully integrating all market players.
Roger Helmer (EFD), Member of the European Parliament (NOTE: We contacted the EFD for comment but they did not reply in time for publication. The below is from a statement made by Roger Helmer MEP):
We should remember that there is still a great deal of uncertainty about theory. It is not clear that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic, or that atmospheric CO2 has anything like the effects postulated by the IPCC. Nor is it clear that the climate policies we are pursuing will have any material affect on levels of atmospheric CO2, or indeed on the climate. But it is absolutely clear that we are utterly unable to predict future changes; all the predictions so far have been falsified by the data. And it is clear that our climate policies will do far more economic damage than anything that could be conceived as a result of climate change. It is time to question our hysterical obsession with the new religion of climate alarmism.
Curious to know more about sustainable growth in Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Activ Solar
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