Europe’s latest move sheds light on hot topic of climate change
by Don McKee
January 23, 2014 11:58 PM | 1532 views | 3 3 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
Climate change is a hot topic here, judging from responses to my previous column. In an effort to shed more light, let’s consider what’s happening in Europe, which has tried to be the global standard setter by imposing tough emission rules, requiring more renewable energy, and according to the New York Times, “arguably sacrificing some economic growth in the name of saving the planet.”

“But now even Europe seems to be hitting its environmentalist limits,” said the Times. Instead of still more “aggressive climate regulation,” the European Union on Wednesday proposed scrapping the “binding national targets for renewable energy production after 2020,” substituting “an overall European goal that is likely to be much harder to enforce.”

The push for tougher regulations ran into countervailing forces of “high energy costs, declining industrial competitiveness and a recognition that the economy is unlikely to rebound strongly any time soon.” The Union got a wake-up message from businesses warning that tougher regulations could threaten a faltering economic recovery with a jobless rate of almost 11 percent. Germany unhappily finds itself facing rising energy costs with its plan to move from nuclear power and push alternative energy sources.

The EU’s European Commission also backed away from proposing legislation on environmental damage and safety for shale gas extraction by fracking. Officials denied the retreat meant less commitment to climate-change efforts, said the Times, but simply “reflected the complicated reality of bringing the 28 countries of the (EU) together behind a policy.” It was noted Europe “pressed ahead on other fronts,” including a 40 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030 — doubling the existing 20 percent target by 2020.

Of course, the retreat by the EU drew withering fire from environmentalist groups with Friends of the Earth blasting the proposals as “off the radar of what climate science tells us to do in Europe to avoid climate catastrophe.”

So what, if anything, will the European development mean for President Obama’s push for more aggressive regulations on industry, notably tougher carbon emission standards for new and existing power plants and for heavy-duty vehicles? This year is supposed to be the year for Obama to carve out a legacy in climate fixing.

But, like the EU, Obama now faces resistance from environmentalists that had been his allies. Eighteen groups last week sent him a letter opposing his “all of the above” strategy that includes domestic production of oil, gas and coal. At the same time, the fossil fuel industry and allies in Congress launched a campaign promoting more oil and gas production while opposing new power plant emission controls.

Obama is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Will he follow the lead of Europe, so often cited as the climate-change model, or will he insist on more, tougher regulations that will have the very same effect that has put Europe in an economic bind?

This is one time that the president would do well to follow the example of Europe.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
on balance
January 24, 2014
Hey KFO. It's all Bushes and those danged conservatives fault.
won't miss you
January 24, 2014
You will be long gone by the time these changes become threatening to mankind. No wonder you don't give a darn about climate change.
Kevin Foley
January 24, 2014
A number of major European nations such as France and Germany have conservatives in power, so small wonder the EU is looking at weakening environmental laws at a time when their economic austerity initiatives have failed to produce an economic recovery.

*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides