27 May 2010

Political Realities

Yesterday, I discussed a proposal from the European Commission to increase the unilateral target for the bloc's emissions reductions to 30% from 20% by 2020. Since the proposal involves costs measured in the hundreds of billions of Euros (of which the exact amount seems to be reported differently), I argued yesterday that it is not going to happen.

EurActiv reports today that Connie Hedegaard, the EU's Climate Action Commissioner and person responsible for the proposal, has stepped back:
Are the conditions right now? Would it make sense at this moment? My answer would be 'no'
These comments raise the question of when it would be appropriate to increase costs to European businesses. Certainly no time soon, maybe never.

The point here is not about Europeans specifically, who have certainly shown the most leadership on climate policies over recent decades, but about a general principle of policy design: People are willing to accept some costs for decarbonization policies, but this willingness has limits, even in Europe. In this regard, Europeans, North Americans, Asians and everyone else are much the same. This is an argument discussed in some depth in The Climate Fix. There is no point is complaining about this reality -- and little point in trying to change it -- rather, it needs to be accepted as a boundary condition for climate policy design.