We might as well hang up a sign in the airports: “Closed for Business”. While EU leaders pontificate about prioritising growth and jobs, we have climate mitigation policies in place that massively raise energy costs and force industries, companies, jobs and investment out of the EU altogether. In the name of environmentalism, we force them to go off-shore, to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards.
It’s a whole spectrum of energy-intensive businesses. Metals like steel and aluminium — a highly energy-intensive industry. Cement. Chemicals. Glass. Paper and wood-processing. We talk about “rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing” and in the next breath propose “a floor price for carbon”. Then we wonder why industry sails off into the sunset.
I have been writing about this for years, but it was brought home to me with added force at a dinner-briefing last night hosted in Brussels by EUROFER, the European Steel Association. Normally at these events there are speeches/briefings/presentations followed by a debate with interventions from the floor. In this case, after a couple of speeches, attention turned to dinner and the debate never happened. My carefully-crafted question was condemned to languish un-asked, so I’ll ask it now.
“Mr. Chairman, the Commission spokesman rightly pointed out that the EU today faces a crisis of low growth, low productivity and competitiveness, and high unemployment. Yet this is at the end of a decade devoted to the Lisbon Process, which aimed hubristically to create in Europe ‘the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world’. Doesn’t this massive failure suggest that there may be something fundamentally wrong with the EU’s model of economic integration, rather as the current €uro crisis suggests something fundamentally wrong in the architecture of the Single Currency?
“Isn’t it the case that our climate mitigation policies are increasing costs, undermining competitiveness, and forcing energy-intensive industries like steel to relocate off-shore?”
It used to be nothing more than excessive regulation and taxation that made the EU an unattractive place to do business. Added to that, in these days of recession, all Western economies have a ball-and-chain around their ankle, marked “DEBT”. But in a triple whammy, we in the EU have deliberately and voluntarily added a new ball-and-chain to the other leg. This one is marked “Leadership in the fight against climate change”.
The EU loves to talk about “leadership”, in climate policy and elsewhere. They’ve failed to notice, though, that no one else is following. Climate alarmism is falling out of favour in the rest of the world. Obama has abandoned Cap’n’Trade — and his critics on the green-left accuse him of losing interest in the environment entirely. We’re told that China is leading in the development of green technology, but they’re still building a new coal-fired power station every week, while their solar-panel factories go bust for lack of demand.
There’s no percentage in being the first lemming over the cliff, but that’s the position that the EU finds itself in.
I mentioned “jurisdictions with lower environmental standards”, but last night I was able to put a number on it. A senior EUROFER official told me that in Europe, production of a ton of steel involves a ton and a half of CO2 emissions. The same ton of steel made in China involves four tons of CO2. More than double.
So let’s get this straight. We have a policy which destroys growth, jobs, investment and prosperity, and at the same time it potentially doubles emissions. Like so much in the EU, this is a lose-lose-lose policy.
I have often remarked that while organisations and businesses continue to genuflect before climate orthodoxy, individual spokesmen will express private doubts, and last night was no exception. The conventional view is being hollowed out from inside: the sceptics are winning hearts and minds. My EUROFER interlocutor (whom for obvious reasons I shall not name) said “We at EUROFER are committed to the fight against climate change. But personally I think it’s nonsense”.
So there you have it. We are de-industrialising Europe in the name of climate change, a bizarre collective paranoid psychosis whose time has come — and gone.
This article first appeared on ConservativeHome.