Europe’s energy conflict is fueling a surge of realism on climate policy

Quietly, late on New Year’s Eve, the European Union released a document that has the potential to transform Europe politically and economically. The result of tough negotiations behind closed doors for many months, this document, once finally approved, will create for Europe a uniform definition of the energy sources eligible for climate investments and carbon-related public expenditure. To the astonishment of many and the fury of others, nuclear power and natural gas are high on the list of approved energy sources.

In a dramatic reversal of a recent trend, in which politics is shaped by climate policy aspirations, this initiative represents climate policy shaped by political realities – most notably those of Germany and France. Since Charles De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer gave life to the idea of ​​European unity more than 60 years ago, this project in its various iterations has been articulated around an axis of Franco-German agreement. What is remarkable is that this new development has only taken place thanks to the reconciliation between the two nations of their deep conflict over energy policy.

The heart of the dispute is nuclear power, which Germany has eliminated from its energy mix over the past decade, while France leads the world in reliance on nuclear power. Although the two nations went in opposite directions, both did so for domestic political reasons. For former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accommodation with the rise of the Green Party following public alarm over Japan’s nuclear disaster in Fukushima was the imperative that drove her 2011 decision to phase out the nuclear power plants by 2022. For French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronFrench teachers come out to protest relaxed COVID-19 rules We must stop kowtowing to COVID-19 refuseniks – whose nation derives 70.6% of its energy from nuclear, and whose fledgling presidency was nearly overthrown by the massive “yellow vest” protests over gasoline taxes in 2018, and who now faces a uphill battle for re-election in 2022 – any retreat from nuclear power was unthinkable.

Germany lobbied hard to exclude nuclear from the list of “approved” energy sources, but France pushed back even harder and was strongly backed by six other EU countries, including dependence on nuclear varies from 37.3% to 53.1% (Czech Republic, Slovenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia).

Merkel bowed to the inevitable but drew a price for it: the inclusion of natural gas on the list. With the demise of nuclear power and China’s dependence on dirty coal a political handicap, Germany’s energy future clearly rests on natural gas – Nord Stream today and Nord Stream 2 likely in a few months.

The broader political context behind these developments is that European climate policy, with shocking brutality, has come up against a wall of reality. As Western leaders bask in the celebratory glow of the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, they blithely ignore dire warnings reported in the Wall Street Journal by economists and climate analysts that a drastic reduction in emissions would entail “costs staggering and imminent political battles. ” Today, these political battles have erupted across Europe in the form of “staggering costs” in the form of wholesale prices for home heating and electricity which have risen by 300% since last winter, hitting European consumers who are also voters.

The British Prime Minister is a prime example of a political leader who received a wake-up call over the unrealistic promises he made in Glasgow. Boris JohnsonBoris JohnsonUK Johnson apologizes for lockdown garden party Boris Johnson cancels COVID-19 testing requirements amid omicron surge The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Altria – Winter is here for Democrats MORE, who was recently warned by a parliamentary ally of the “catastrophic” damage done to the government by promises such as a ban on new internal combustion cars by 2030 – and recalled that “elections are won or lost in the people’s wallets. Unsurprisingly, promises and deadlines are thoroughly revised and party manifestos hastily rewritten.

These mounting political pressures are also opening Europeans’ eyes to the absurdities inherent in their own pretensions, such as the trumpeting of the EU’s 20% reduction in emissions since 1990, which becomes laughable given that global emissions have increased by 50% over the same period. . What is also more remarkable is that China, far from crippling its own economy as Western countries do, is merely meeting climate targets while unabashedly accepting its role as an exporter of CO2 emissions to the world, in terms of metric tons, but with a little help. other developing giants such as India and Brazil.

If Merkel finally acknowledged the madness of overshooting German climate policy and Macron decided that re-election as President of France was better than a sign of climate virtue, the world would be indebted to them for teaching us that the reality can be avoided temporarily, but it can never be undone. We can also hope that some American politicians take notice of what is happening with their Old World counterparts.

William Moloney, Ph.D., is a research fellow in conservative thought at the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. He studied at Oxford and the University of London and obtained his doctorate at Harvard University. He is a former Colorado Education Commissioner.

Mary I. Bruner