Science - January 30, 2014

‘The climate policy is not so bad’

Albert Sikkema

The European Union has come up with a less ambitious but more realistic climate policy. The environmental movement deplores it, but the new targets are not so bad, says Pier Vellinga, professor of Climate Change at Wageningen.

‘We always want more than we get and it is true that for the climate it is already 5 past 12, and yet this new European climate policy is not so bad,’ says Vellinga. ‘We want to be climate neutral by 2050. And with this policy, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 40 percent by 2030. You are doing pretty well if you manage that. I would say: get to work on these objectives.’

The environment movement thinks it is inadequate. What do the industrial sector and the Dutch government think?

‘Brussels is more ambitious than the Dutch government. And Dutch and German industry were aiming at a somewhat less ambitious policy. I understand that, because in the short term European industry will have a hard time due to strict climate laws, which raise energy costs.’

Then they have to save on energy, but there are no agreements on that?

‘I have no regrets about that. You can make all the agreements you like about saving energy, but the crucial factor is the price of energy. If it is high, companies need no further prompting to save energy. Now that the energy prices are low, there is no stimulus to cut consumption. In countries such as the Netherlands and Germany there is an energy surplus because of the crisis and big investments in sustainable energy in Germany. Due to this overcapacity, 10 gas power stations are inactive in the Netherlands. In that situation you can agree on anything, but without any incentives to make energy users cut down on consumption, it won’t work. We need a serious minimum price for CO2 rights, and the cutting back will take care of itself.’

You sound pretty satisfied with this climate policy.

‘Yes, this policy is fine, considering the political climate in Europe. But the plan still has to get through the European Parliament. And then the policy instruments for achieving the targets will have to be implemented. There is a way to go yet.’