08 September 2009

What Dieter Helm Thinks About EU Climate Polcieis

Dieter Helm, the Oxford economist, is not too impressed (PDF):
While the EU focuses on the short-term carbon price and renewables, global emissions are likely
to go on rising, driven by coal and by developing countries such as China and India. Both of these countries will increase their populations by 1 billion by 2050 and are heavily dependent on coal. Therefore, were the EU serious about climate change, the emphasis would be overwhelmingly on coal and China and India. But, as noted above, the production base for the 2020 20 per cent target (and for Kyoto) means that the measurement of ‘success’ is not the impact on global concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, but the production of CO2 in the EU. As also noted above, it is perfectly possible for the latter to go down, and the former to go up, and, indeed, possible that the consequence of reducing the latter might actually further exacerbate the former. So why has the EU not taken seriously the China/India/coal problem? The answer is that there appears not to be the political will to do what would be implied: not only to make much larger cuts in EU carbon production, but also to make the large financial and technology transfers to the developed countries. On the contrary, the EU has been lulled into the false assumption that tackling global warming is cheap. Across the EU, the most widely quoted number from the Stern Review is that it will only cost 1 per cent GDP (Stern, 2007). Politicians drop the caveats about ‘good policy’ and have been very keen to assure voters that climate-change policy will not have a significant impact on their standard of living. They can have their cake and eat it: claiming that economic growth can go on at 2–3 per cent per annum for the rest of the century and the world (and not just Europe) can decarbonize.
Read Prof. Helm's entire critique here in PDF.