The European Union has presented an astonishing plan to make Europe the first “climate-neutral continent” by 2050. Your humble servant is not sure what to make of this, even after consulting some of the EU’s copious documentation on the topic.
At a time when all the major economies – the United States of America, China, India, Russia, Brazil, and even Trudeau’s Canada – have made clear they do not care about climate change and will not be making any individual economic sacrifices for alleged global benefits (that’s the tragedy of the commons for you), the EU has apparently decided on a radical change of lifestyle for its 450 million citizens.
One remains puzzled even at the way these things are decided. Until recently, the EU had a more realistic goal of reducing emissions by 80-95% relative to 1990 by 2050. Then, some obscure committees, working according to the time-honored principle of government-by-lowest-common-denominator, suddenly pulls this kind of rabbit out of a hat and all of society is expected to submit accordingly.
When “the EU” decides this kind of thing, what this means is that the bureaucrats of the European Commission, the politicians of the European Parliament (elected, but more or less irresponsible in the strict sense), and the relevant ministries of the 27 national governments have agreed to something. The latter is important: Germany, France, and even, astonishingly, the eastern European countries are basically on board (the latter are apparently playing hard-to-get in order to shake some more shekels out of Brussels). When so many national governments agree to something, presumably the proposal is rather serious.
The EU’s plethora of bureaucracies and committees have only a weak democratic mandate to be instituting such far-reaching changes to our way of life. Over the past decade, poll after poll has indicated that, to the extent one can generalize, Europeans care about two things: the economy and migration. On the economy, the EU’s recent performance has been decidedly mediocre – essentially condemning the youth of southern Europe to emigration – while on migration the EU simply ignored citizens’ concerns, enabling a huge wave of migration and associated murder, rape, and Islamic terrorism against innocent Europeans.
The media, and a fraction of the youth, have suddenly been seized by a passion for climate change in the past year or so, and Europeans now apparently consider climate a major issue. The EU Parliament has symbolically declared a “climate emergency.” The Declaration’s preface includes a denunciation of the Schmittian definition of sovereignty: “whereas no emergency should ever be used to erode democratic institutions or to undermine fundamental rights; whereas all measures will always be adopted through a democratic process.” The Parliament however did not bother to make clear what it means by “emergency,” if anything (other than, presumably, a quick way of making some headlines).
Theoretical question: in the absence of a technological miracle, do you really think our capitalist welfare democracies would be willing to vote for the lower purchasing power/standards of living necessary to have zero emissions? Hmm?
I still have no idea how the EU thinks the elimination of carbon emissions will be achieved. In theory, every ounce of fossil fuel burned in Europe will have to be made up for by the regrowth of some forests (or some other carbon sink).
Does this mean flights will be banned or severely limited? I scarcely believe the Metropolitan Class would be willing to sacrifice their twice-quarterly excursions to Dubrovnik, Tenerife, etc.
Does this mean we will no longer have fossil fuel cars? In the big cities, yes. Any proles who cannot afford a Tesla will anyway presumably not be able to afford property in our Inclusive Global Cities. Electric cars’ current range of 450 kilometers is actually not bad for day-to-day purposes and can be expected to improve over the next 30 years.
Does this mean we will increase nuclear power production to both make up for the decline of coal/gas and increase power generation for the electrification of cars? No, nuclear power should stay the same (one indication this is about “virtue” not climate).
Use of renewables in the EU has steadily increased from 8.5% of total energy in 2004 to 17.5% in 2017, mostly due to increased use of wind and solar power. Although actually, the constant use of solar/wind visuals in renewable propaganda is rather misleading: biomass (mostly wood and agriculture byproducts, it seems) continues to make up 60% of the EU’s “renewable” energy.
The EU has successfully decoupled carbon emissions from economic growth over the past decade. However, if the EU has overshot its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 20%, this in no small part “thanks” to its failed management of the financial/euro crisis, which prolonged recession. I remind people that we are now officially halfway between 1990 and 2050, but the EU has only reduced emissions by 22%. This means we would need to quadruple the speed of reductions to be successful. And this is not likely to be easy given the reality of diminishing returns and seuils incompressibles. There has been no progress in reducing carbon emissions in transport and there is no forecast spontaneous decline.
Zero emissions will only be possible either through some technological Deus Ex Machina or through a significant reduction in Europeans’ purchasing power. The ever-consensual EU denies there is any economic trade-off, claiming that becoming carbon-neutral will make EU businesses more competitive and give them a first-mover advantage (presumably thinking that China, say, will surely not be able to copy our innovations).
Whatever one makes of all this, climate is going to be the general-purpose pretext for the administrative class to further tighten the proverbial Iron Cage at all levels of society.
If you spend any time in administration or government, you quickly realize how action is pre-set and hamstrung at every level by innumerable Unfunded Mandates. In theory, mayors, regions, and national governments are empowered to take decisions by the democratic mandate of their election. In practice, they are often reduced to mere administrators, their hands tied by goals fixed by national laws and EU and even UN committees. Once your diplomats agree, everyone beneath them is bound in perpetuity.
This concerns things as varied as macroeconomic policy, social housing, energy use, equal outcomes (not opportunities!) for women, etc.
Only in this way can your bottom-up democratic system of government consistently follow your non-negotiable top-down globalist imperatives.
I will not provide a full account of the many ways in which which Unfunded Mandates are odious. A few: in paralyzing civic self-government, in blurring the lines of responsibility and fostering collective irresponsibility, in encouraging a spirit of masturbatory self-congratulation among the Metropolitans . . .
It is true that Unfunded Mandates precisely address decentralized democracy’s biggest flaws: namely the erratic and random nature of policy (democracy and values are antithetical) and the difficulty of coordinating all the different elected officials. However, this is done at the price of hollowing out your bottom-up and democratic pretensions.
Personally, I prefer more decisive and transparent modes of government. If we really want to tackle climate change, let us impose a carbon tax and use the money to subsidize reforestation. But no, that is too frank and anyway would not allow us to employ hordes of climate consultants and advocates. Oh, and there’s the gilets-jaunes.
Greta Thunberg, for one, was unimpressed at the recent UN climate summit in Madrid:
[The conference] seems to have become some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition. . . . Only setting up distant dates and saying things which give the impression an action is underway will most likely do more harm than good.
The EU’s record for this sort of goal-setting is not particularly good. In the 1980s, the then-European Community agreed the vague goal of “completing the single market” by 1992. In the 1990s, the EU agreed to “have a single currency” (the euro) by 2002 (success). However, this was at the price of tremendous fudges in terms of the monetary union’s organization and membership (e.g. Italy and Greece coming in with debt far above what was either allowed or advisable). Furthermore, the EU agreed the so-called Stability and Growth pact by which governments are supposed to limit deficits and debt to 3% and 60% of GDP respectively, which was simply ignored when these proved inconvenient.
Time will tell if this EU plan was a bold initiative, an elite power grab, &/or a meaningless exercise in virtue signaling. If it works, it will be a remarkable example of elite- and State-led development of the economy in a particular direction and the Metropolitans will have to find some new moral crusade. But we shall be old men or dead by then.