Why are some world leaders so keen to scrap green policies? In countries from the United States, to China, to Poland, governments have been aggressively propping up the coal industry, even if it makes little economic sense. In the UK, former Prime Minister David Cameron famously went from having the “greenest government ever” to getting “rid of all that green crap”.

Can’t green policies boost the economy? There seems to be a feeling that going ‘green’ inevitably means hamstringing business and industry while developing countries belch out pollution and gain a competitive advantage. US President Trump, for example, has called climate change a “very, very expensive form of tax” and said green policies benefit China because “they burn everything you could burn; they couldn’t care less… they can undercut us on price.” Why are so many politicians wedded to the idea that older, more polluting and less efficient industries are somehow better for the economy?

Between 3-14 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (also known as ‘COP24′) will convene. Governments will meet and discuss a common response to climate change. The current strategy, set down during the 2015 Paris climate change conference (COP21), was thrown off-course when President Trump announced the US’ intention to withdraw from the treaty in 2017. Might COP24 be a chance for world leaders to demonstrate they believe a transition to a green, sustainable economy is not a cost, but actually a benefit?

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Kevin, who is worried that green policies will hurt the economy and end up costing citizens more. He says: “In the end, we the people will pay whether it is through higher prices if we make the corporations pay or higher taxes if we leave it to governments and their green job creation schemes.”

To get a response, we put Kevin’s comment to Céline Charveriat, Executive Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy, when we met up with her at the State of Europe rountable event in Brussels, hosted by the think tank Friends of Europe. What would she say?

For another perspective, we also put Kevin’s comment to Rebecca Harms, a German Green MEP. How would she respond to Kevin’s argument that green policies always end up costing citizens more?

I have, of course, heard this since I’ve been in politics – citizens complaining that their taxes are being used incorrectly and that it’s all becoming an ever-greater burden. But I think that well-functioning states, which can only work well if everyone contributes to funding them, ultimately deliver a lot to citizens whether it’s a functioning education system, functioning infrastructure or good progress on climate protection. Whoever sets aside or puts climate protection on hold ensures that many people pay an unexpectedly high price. So far, most of those affected have been people in poor countries, such as Africa, who are affected by ever-increasing problems such as floods or drought. This year, however, there was a lot of discussion in Northern Europe about how to proceed if global warming is not slowed down. And I think that after this summer, it’s easier to talk with farmers in Germany about how much we have to invest in climate protection.

Next up, we had a comment from Ironworker who questions whether less wealthy EU Member States, such as Poland, can really afford to move to a ‘green economy’? Poland is obviously heavily-dependent on coal to meet its energy needs; can it afford to implement green, sustainable policies, such as transitioning away from fossil fuels?

We put this comment to Céline Charveriat from the Institute for European Environmental Policy for her reaction:

Are ‘green policies’ hurting our economies? Can poorer EU Member States afford the transition away from fossil fuels? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – anatoliy_gleb

41 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    maybe it’s about a balance here…what to achieve with what costs…

    • avatar

      Especially as the costs are coming down, opening up new opportunities

    • avatar


    • avatar

      Arthur, can you please elaborate on these new opening opportunities that you mentioned.
      I just can’t see them opening up here in Ireland, especially with the policies of our government, mitigating towards the end profit of business people and not towards the end users by way of cheaper power.

    • avatar

      Peter totally agree. We as a small nation with deplorable Infrastructure outside the cities cant be compared to the likes of Germany.

    • avatar

      Germany are not exactly an example as they are cutting down forests again to open new coal mines, importing gas from both Russia and the US. Its alot of do as we say not as we do.

  2. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    For the foreseeable future- FACTS say YES! Thereafter- nobody knows for sure!

    But for EU super power regulators & friends nothing is too expensive & impossible! Just regulate- to beat the rest to the touchline!

    On a grand scale it started in 2011 when Chancellor Merkel chose to “pioneer” the German “Energiewende”! 17 nuclear power stations to be shut down by 2022! Apparently 7 are shut. Many articles speak for themselves:




    Quite “scary” when green politicians are quoting “costs”- that 400k- 500k people will die- due to air pollution related causes in Europe. (Please can we quote EU27 stats- they might not be as scary?)

    Life ends undefined for most of us. What about drugs, cigarettes, generally risky & unhealthy lifestyle choices or politically inspired unrest & wars? It obviously isn’t scary & doesn’t count as a green enough subject to be considered?

    It’s even more mysterious when Céline Charveriat maintains that “the EU must ensure that it is NOT consumers to pay for a sustainable Europe” (or EU)!? Who are these generous donors? Who will pay?

    Or- “the 250 mio (“well off”) EU citizen living mostly in rented 2-3 roomed city flats “who will save lots of money” to produce their own energy……. …perhaps one day! Will they- how can they? Such are pretty Utopian assumptions!

    Automatically, more & more technical innovations driven by industry will produce more affordable choices for consumers as supply & demand regulates itself. Spurred on when oil will slowly run out in ~60 to 100+ years.

    At the moment reality looks dimmer & somehow different:


  3. avatar

    As the sun plunges into the grand solar minimum, plunging temperatures and major winter storms over the next few years will mean that the people of the world will need to heat homes and cook how they can irrespective of the UN, EU or their own governments stance!
    Information on the current gsm can be found on YouTube!

  4. avatar

    Define what a poor nation is in Europe. Is it a nation that’s beaten into a tax pulp while bailing bankers out and people thrown out of their homes by them very same bankers or is it something entirely different.

  5. avatar

    We are up to our necks with the national overdraft still we waste money and ignore the obvious

  6. avatar

    New economies will replace the old

  7. avatar

    Do we have enough options in place in order to become more green ?

  8. avatar

    Can we as a human race afford not to transition away from fossil fuels – Fine Gael are comparable to US republican party when it comes to climate change

  9. avatar

    Long term investments are always hard at start!

  10. avatar

    Bring down the price of smokeless fuel so that people would consider using it,otherwise it will not work.

  11. avatar

    Why not use yhe bogs to save energy pit sun panles all over

  12. avatar

    We have wind and wave power in abundance and ignoring it

  13. avatar

    Maybe is the only solution for them..

  14. avatar

    If they hurt our economy (which is an imaginary structure anyway)at least they won’t hurt our lives and our world (which are real).

  15. avatar

    Sure, green policies hurt economy at the beginning but it benefits the economy in a long run. This is what we call sustainable development. The problem now is that the superpower is falling and its president is making excuses to continue damaging the earth. When the America and a crazy old man calling for sanction and killing, our leaders rush to follow. With our green policies, our leader and elites lack even the courage to utter a word against such irresponsible act of its close ally and leader. Even worse, Europe starts to question whether Trump is correct. When people are panicking with the apparent decline of Europe, have anyone tried to do anything in a European way for a rebirth? Europe has been over-relying on great power protection too long and it has forgotten how to protect itself and make decision good for Europe interest in a European way.

  16. avatar

    When China with 1/5 of the world’s population is sacrificing its economic growth by switching for cleaner sources of power [ https://www.iea.org/weo/china/%5D, should the US and Europe be taking “green policies hurt economy”?

    • avatar

      However, the situation between the West and China appears to have changed. China is able to implement more green policy because it is now the second largest economy and its purchasing power is world no. 1 and China has a huge national reserve and the disposable income of its people is very high. As Europe has been leading the area of green policies for many years, it might be time for Europe to withhold for a while until social, political and economic situation improve.

    • avatar

      Even though Europe green policies come to still, China would need some time to catch up. As China has changed its policy and focus on the building of “community with shared destiny, it is very possible that China would not stop changing green while waiting for Europe to recover fully”. It is just a matter of understanding and mutual cooperation and support, I suppose.

  17. avatar

    We have to use the most efficient energy sources in order to assure an abundance of energy for our society. That’ll maximize our society’s rate of development and technological progress, giving us the tools we need to solve tomorrow’s problems. Today’s technology won’t.

  18. avatar

    In this moment of great instability in the global political economy and rise of populism, when Europe has not yet fully recovered from the 2008 Financial crisis and additional socioeconomic pressure arising from the refugee and trade war issue, green policies would be attacked from all sides. As we have seen with the experience of France, it might better to return to pragmatism and taking real action for economic recovery rather than dragging between by the global political and military conflict. It would not do Europe any good to wait and see how dust would settle but to progress independently for recovery. The longer Europe waits, the more unstable situation will become. Green policies need healthy financial condition to support. Putting it aside green policies at the meantime to facilitate economic growth for sociopolitical stability is required.

  19. avatar

    When climate change will hit, it will hurt the economy more than any fable on the uneconomics of fighting it.

  20. avatar

    for 98% of countries save their economies , and most important save the planet

  21. avatar

    Ultimately the cost of Climate change is going to force the economy to go green. The sooner we adapt the faster our economy will be able to grow in this new direction. I am sure those that have been making a lot of money on the old ways are going to fight it tooth and nail, but in the end they have no option except learning to change if they want to survive.

  22. avatar

    no, if the goals are realistic and the strategy designed to achieve those does not aim to generate political capital. The investment in renewable energy is similar to investments in space travel/exploration- it opens up new market niches, modernizes manufacturing capabilities and introduces new skill sets on the labor market. On the other end however, if you simply dump subsidies for installation of panels, end importing relatively cheap and inefficient units, do not introduce the local infrastructure that enables power network load balancing and buffering, do not recognize other small scale systems for power generation as part of the solution and do not develop and fund a proper research, engineering and manufacturing pool, you end up inflicting serious damage. If done properly a push for renewable energy leads to redesign of the power network, and for me the right place to start is the smaller communities, and not go big. Solar and wind farms are nice, but they do not really achieve the goal- they simply take an old model and add new(relatively) machinery to it. The benefit comes when you take advantage of the distributed nature of the renewable resource and the relative mobility of the power units. One needs to take into an account that industrial consumer will have really hard to switch to a distributed model- the requirements there are too high, but I do think that a wide-scale push for decentralization focused on smaller communities will have much bigger impact that the carbon emission pact(which is more or less a political blowjob).

  23. avatar

    I think green policies can be expensive..why?..who knows!!..but essentially they are for the best in the long run..they help climate and make it a better life for everyone…try to keep green taxes low please..we like to contribute but its soooo expensive

  24. avatar

    No, they are not, they create disruption, thus businesses.

  25. avatar

    The Green parties are like watermelon. Green from the outside and red from the inside.

    • avatar

      you are so right

  26. avatar

    Yes it is hurting economy of the West. China is the great polluter

  27. avatar

    Green policies are generally an investment in the future, in a sustainable future. Economists who often complain of the costs are thinking only in the short-term. That is generally the problem I have seen. Bjorn Lomborg is a case in point: for him dealing proactively with climate change is too costly, we should feed and educate the poor instead. But his models are far too short-term (<70 yrs), linear and narrow-focused (they don't consider climate tipping points) hence his untenable conclusions.

  28. avatar

    Green policies are bad for the developing countries.

  29. avatar

    Yes! Fighting climate change lasts for 40 years, no visible result, except more and more taxes!

    • avatar

      Well, that is the point

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