Friday, September 28, 2007

Alliances Contre Nature

A commenter takes me to task for being too exigent on the "environmental Grenelle." My critic writes:

Read again !

There are a lot of very tough propositions in this report . Just one example : bring back the level of emission of greenhouse gases in 2020 at their...1990 level.

Suddenly, you're greener than Greenpeace who do not have chained themselves to the gates of the commission. Yet.

I have read again, and I come away unpersuaded. General goals about greenhouse gas reduction are of course laudable, but what do we find when we look for measures with teeth to ensure that the goals are met? Very little. Indeed, we find potent and in some respects surprising alliances contre nature to thwart these goals. For instance, the CGT and MEDEF joined forces in Section 1 on energy to oppose setting a goal of 25 percent renewable energy sources by 2020. The CGT fears loss of jobs; the MEDEF fears increased costs, loss of competitivity, etc. The same article informs us that the farmers' organization FNSEA opposed the MEDEF, NGOs, and government on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

These issues, where major economic interests are at stake, are far more significant, to my mind, than "costless" measures such as the decision to serve more "healthy food" in school cafeterias. Progress, to be sure, but only at the margin. Other major issues, such as nuclear power and incinerators, seem not to have progressed at all. What I'm looking for, incidentally, is not a Greenpeace agenda, but evidence of a new framework for resolving the clash of competing goods that these discussions must involve: the moralistic approach to ecology, without consideration for the economic costs, holds little promise. If there is to be progress, it must come by demonstrating that there are economic opportunities as well as costs in green production. That said, costs must be tackled head on, and externalities must be internalized, perhaps by the imposition of a carbon tax, a crucial issue which this round of negotiations seems to have sidestepped.

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