Rhein on Energy and Climate

“We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories…and we will work tirelessly to roll back the spectre of a warming planet”. These two sentences in Obama`s inaugural address express a revolution in thinking on the other side of the Atlantic.
Never before has there been a more dramatic policy turn-around by a new Western government realising the necessity to stop “strengthening our adversaries and threatening our planet” (Obama).

The new Administration seems ready to reduce US green house gas emissions by 25 percent until 2020 and 80 percent until 2050.

The designated secretary of Energy, Steve Chu, Nobel Prize in physics, will be the ideal personality for implementing the President’s announcement. He is keen on promoting “green energies”, from C02-free power plants, to more efficient power grids, bio-fuels from waste rather than maize and, last not least, higher energy efficiency.

The $ 825 billion draft economic recovery package, which the transition team has prepared jointly with the newly elected Congress, contains $ 54 billion for a “new green deal”, half of which for investment in renewable power/heat generation and batteries for electric cars, 30 percent for enhancing energy efficiency in public buildings and private homes and 20 percent for a smart electricity grid.
It is expected to create up to one million new jobs.

With this programme the USA will regain the credibility to “lead” the international community towards a more effective climate treaty than the ineffective Kyoto Protocol, which the Bush Administration failed to ratify.

In the light of these positive developments in Washington, the recent EU climate package (December 11-12, 2008) looks pale. It is full of escape clauses for all industries and constitutes another opaque compromise for which the EU is notorious. It will take several more weeks before it will become binding law and be operative only as of 2013!

As always, the EU is incapable of grand and visible action!
Have European citizens ever heard their political leaders deliver a “political” message on what is at stake with climate policy as the Obama has done during his electoral campaign an with three simple sentences in his inaugural address? Have the EU governments introduced big energy efficiency programmes into their most recent economic rescue packages? If so, they have not become visible to the average citizens. But every German citizen knows that he can obtain € 2 500 government subsidies for buying a new car, independent of its fuel efficiency.

Bravo Obama! We look forward to your rapidly inviting the heads of government of the major climate polluting countries for elaborating a joint strategy for “rolling back the spectre of a global planet”. The global climate is far too important to be left to the negotiating skills of national climate bureaucrats.

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  1. Well, don’t be too harsh on the EU please…

    I know that almost everybody is mad with enthusiasm on Obama – myself in the first place 🙂 – but let’s not forget that during all those years when the US failed to ratify and act upon the Kyoto protocol (imperfect as it was it already represented huge progress and awareness raising) leadership on environmental matters belonged to Europe, and especially the EU. The EU efffectively took the lead in green economy and in raising awareness on global climate issues. In fact Obama learned from Europe and the EU!

    Let’s be proud for once of what we are and what we achieved!

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