All for one in Europe’s climate plan

A bold proposal for carbon cuts by the European Commission also comes with plans to share the burden fairly. The fair part may be as important as the carbon targets.

Reuters
Poland's Belchatow Power Station is Europe's largest coal-fired power plant.

European Union leaders took up a difficult debate Thursday on a bold new climate plan dubbed the Green Deal. While the details are impressive – such as a potential legal obligation to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050 – just as important is a call for equitable sacrifice among EU member states.

In the spirit of the Three Musketeers, the new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the plan “must work for all or it will not work at all.”

Around the world, many climate proposals have failed in recent years because of a perception by voters and others that cuts in carbon use would not be balanced by economic justice. Last year, for example, French President Emmanuel Macron had to retreat from a proposed hike in fuel taxes in the face of a “Yellow Vest” protest movement among rural commuters. In announcing the Green Deal this week, Ms. von der Leyen tried to head off any perception of unfairness by promising to “protect those who risk being hit harder by such change.”

For the EU, protecting certain nations from tougher emission targets could be expensive, costing perhaps as much as $130 billion. Much of that money would go to member states now heavily dependent on coal – notably Poland – to move them toward lower emissions and to retrain coal workers for other jobs. The name of this climate help, the Just Transition Fund, reflects the concerns about how to distribute the burden of cutting greenhouse gases.

An even trickier fairness concern is how the EU would protect its industries if their costs rise as a result of moving toward a zero-carbon economy. Companies could face stiff competition in imports from countries without tough carbon targets. Some might even move their factories overseas, also known as “carbon leakage.” Ms. von der Leyen’s solution would be to impose a “carbon tax” at the border. Such a levy would be based on a complex estimation of the pollution involved in the manufacture and transport of an import.

Any portion of the Green Deal could falter if EU leaders do not adequately address the fairness questions. In addition, the EU must prepare for other countries, such as the United States and China, reacting badly to a carbon border tax.

The EU’s leadership on curbing climate change has been admirable. Between 1990 and 2018, the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 23% while its economy grew by 61%. Now the world’s biggest single market can also be a leader in defining climate fairness. If Europe achieves “one for all and all for one” in burden-sharing, the rest of humanity may follow.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to All for one in Europe’s climate plan
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2019/1212/All-for-one-in-Europe-s-climate-plan
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe