Is the global financial crisis good or bad for green issues? The ongoing controversy over the European Union’s ambitious climate and energy package suggests the latter might be the case. But political and economical analysts seem to be increasingly confident that the current crisis might give rise to environmentally healthier policies and investment decisions.
The EU heads of state are still determined to finalise the package before the end of the year, but they expect tough negotiations with a group of reluctant countries led by Poland.
An editorial in this week’s Nature lays out the options and prospects for EU climate policies in light of the financial crisis:
“Striking the required bargains may require more time than the remaining two months under French presidency. But a well-weighed set of rules is far and away preferable to a rushed political compromise that would substantially water down the EU’s ambitious climate plan. (…) Meanwhile, the current economic turbulence cannot be allowed to serve as a pretext for lessening climate protection efforts.”
Meanwhile, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said in a statement that the EU plan “could also be a boon for the economy, generating millions of new jobs at a time when the world is suffering from the financial crisis.”
Any agreement will come too late for the international climate talks next month in Poznan, Poland (of all places). But a strong European commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 % would be a much-needed signal to the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen 2009, where nations hope to conclude on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.
A Green Collar Economy – such is the title of a forthcoming book by US environmental activist Van Jones – is still utopian. But the near-collapse of financial markets is a compelling reminder to investors and policy-makers that credit card houses are precarious structures.
Couldn’t the crash be a reminder that, ecologically, we’re living on credit as well? There is an analogy between climate and financial markets: Both systems can behave utterly unpredictable. In the markets, those who should have known better have ignored the warning signs for years – until the system suddenly collapsed on them. The same must not happen with climate. If it were possible to green the bailout, a slogan coined by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, this crisis may still lead to something good.