The European Union is slowly backing away from its commitment to climate change policies which would place emissions reduction and environmental policy at the heard of economic policies. Rather than pursuing growth at any costs and industrial development using fossil fuels, the EU was committed to a future economy which was less dependent of fossil fuels and made much more use of knowledge based firms to spur growth. They have weakened such strong political commitment because the economic conditions demand that they do and there are unintended consequences of the policies they were pursuing – rapid rise in energy costs impairing economic growth and leading to energy poverty, vulnerable energy systems which are unreliable and a decline in global competitiveness.
Environmental organizations are upset with the lack of development in climate change policies and related environmental policy: they are looking for a post-carbon economy in which environmental concerns are not only “taken into account” but drive social and economic policy. Caring for the planet is as important as caring for people.
Part of the problem is that the focus has been so relentless on a single issue – reducing CO2 emissions – that many other environmental issues have had scant attention in comparison. For example, one of the most critical issues for the planet and people is clean, fresh water and our access to it. A second issue is the health and extent of our forests. A third issue is the balance between our need for food and the needs for quality land and biodiversity. No one of these issues is more important than another and they are all connected.
CO2 secures a great deal of attention, despite the fact that the link between CO2 and climate change is now in question (CO2 continues to rise but surface temperatures are “flat” since 2000). All efforts since 1990 to reduce CO2 emissions by global agreement have failed, but cost billions. Another attempt to secure global agreement will be made in 2014-15 but all evidence suggests that no binding and enforceable agreement will be secured before the Kyoto expires in 2015. Maybe then we can focus on a more inclusive strategy for our environmental future.