Another example for the corporate takeover of states – in this case Germany. And again: it’s the system that is the problem. As long as we solely concern ourselves with single issues like climate change policies, we’ll see these issues change at a snail’s pace. In the absence of relevant mass movements challenging our socio-economic system, the downhill journey will continue.
Germany: the new dirty man of Europe
The new emissions agreement is a disaster. Angela Merkel is prepared to go green only when it doesn’t hurt big business
So much for the Europeans leading the way on climate change. Even as our governments claim they want to drag the world into an effective climate agreement in Poznan, they have just pulled Europe out of one in Brussels.
The agreement they have just reached is a disaster. The 20% carbon cut they promise by 2020 falls miles short of what’s needed, and they’ll be able to buy most of it from abroad anyway. All this means, in a world which has to eliminate most of its carbon pollution, is that other countries, which have sold their easiest reductions to us, will then find it harder to make emissions cuts of their own. It’s carbon colonialism, in which Europe picks the low-hanging fruit in developing countries, leaving them with much tougher choices later on.
European governments have also junked their commitment to turn theEmissions Trading Scheme into a fair and effective way of cutting pollution. At the moment over 90% of the licences to produce CO2 are given away to the biggest polluters. Some of these companies have made billions by passing on the nominal costs of the licences to their customers, even though they didn’t have to pay anything themselves. It’s a perfect inversion of environmental justice: under the ETS, the polluter gets paid. Those who have produced the most pollution get the biggest rewards.
The EU promised that by 2020 all emissions permits would be sold at auction to the polluting industries. Now the heads of government have broken that promise: in 2020, big industrial polluters will have to pay for only 70% of the harm they do. Worse, companies will receive all their allowances for nothing if they can show that they’re threatened by competition from firms outside the EU. As it’s hard to think of any European sector which doesn’t have competitors abroad, this concession appears to sink the sale of permits to industrial polluters altogether.
Who has pushed hardest for these exemptions? The great green German chancellor Angela Merkel. The British government’s environmental policies are wildly contradictory, but they look almost coherent by comparison to Germany’s. In some respects it’s the most progressive country in the EU, with a federal scheme to insulate the entire housing stock and an investment in wind power which puts the UK (with far greater wind resources) to shame. In other respects it has become the dirty man of Europe. It was Merkel who demanded weaker standards for fuel efficiency in cars, Merkel who pushed hardest for a €40bn bail-out of the motor manufacturers, Merkel who now insists that the big cement, steel and chemicals companies are allowed to get away without paying.
How can these contradictions be explained? Rather like our own government, Merkel’s administration is prepared to support only those measures which don’t hurt big business. It pours billions of euros into useless schemes which generate corporate revenue (such as the half million solar roofs it has paid for so far, which contribute a grand total of 0.4% of Germany’s electricity supply) and opposes effective schemes which would clobber carbon emissions but hurt corporate profits. The German government is prepared to go green only when it costs corporations nothing.
Shame on you, Mrs Merkel. With the help of Donald Tusk, Silvio Berlusconi and one or two other Neanderthals, you have now messed it up for everyone.