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!