X Close

Europe’s Green Deal faces extinction

German Greens politician Annalena Baerbock rallies supporters last week. Credit: Getty

June 12, 2024 - 10:00am

The success of the European elite’s most ambitious project looks even more remote after Sunday’s EU parliamentary elections: the Green Deal is a luxury policy it can no longer afford.

On Sunday the green vote receded from its peak in 2019, when green parties took 20.5% of the share. Despite the mobilisation efforts of operations such as Generation Climate Europe, the young are losing interest: green parties recorded 11.9% of the under-30 vote, and the figure is even lower for first-time voters aged 16-24.

As researcher Ben Pile pointed out at the time, the greens’ high tide in 2019 was an outlier, and largely concentrated among affluent nations. When economic concerns rise to the fore, enthusiasm for utopian environmentalism recedes.

This is bad news for the European Union’s flagship Green Deal, an umbrella of regulations and subsidies which comprise its radical industrial policy. This was never going to be cheap: McKinsey estimates the cost of transitioning away from hydrocarbons globally to be $275 trillion, or 7.5% of annual GDP. The Commission was able to raid Covid recovery funds for around €270 billion, but the aim of creating a European Sovereignty Fund looks more elusive than ever after the weekend.

Worse, implementation costs have risen steeply, hitting renewable energy projects particularly hard. For example, Denmark is realising that wind is no longer affordable, now that capital costs have risen 30%. Europe can’t compete with President Biden’s aggressive Inflation Reduction Act and its $110 billion package of subsidies — “investments” — and grants. These were luxury beliefs, for a luxury era.

Despite tempering the deal, the reality is that a forced march from hydrocarbons is not popular. Act II, which determines policy after 2030, now looks in peril.

Externally, the pressure is on too: a newly invigorated and ambitious Brics alliance, which since the start of the year has included Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Argentina — the latter anticipating a hydrocarbon-powered industrial renaissance thanks to its Vaca Muerta shale formation. None of the Brics members are inclined to get in the way of an EU so committed to inflicting self-harm.

Perhaps it was always too ambitious. Just as capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, as Marx wrote, so does aggressive environmentalism. With climate change, environmentalists devised an instrument to measure human sin, in effect allowing them to impose metric-driven requirements across a wide range of human activity: from food, to mobility, to housing and work.

However, in the 21st century, we remain reliant on either extracted or synthetic hydrocarbons for much of modern existence; even if energy production were 100% hydrocarbon-free, we would need to synthesise them for fertilisers, medicine and many other technological processes. The substitutions are poor and costly. Which in turn means that every aspect of life under the Green Deal becomes that little bit greyer, duller or more unpleasant for the voter. Insulation is a vivid example.

At Berlaymont, where the European Commission devises its policies, the technocrats may take some comfort from the inchoate nature of the new populist revolt. It remains largely focused on capturing disquiet about mass immigration, not detailed energy policy or building regulations. While street protests have taken place, from the gillet jaunes to the more recent pan-European farming protests, the groundwork for a coherent opposition to aggressive climate change mitigation policies has yet to be laid.

But the warning signs are there. One of the founders of Germany’s green movement, Fritz Vahrenholt, likes to quote a German idiom: “A donkey goes onto the ice until it breaks.” Now, it would seem, those cracks have appeared.

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

29 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 month ago

Soon it will start to become politically convenient for the “science” underpinning climate alarmism to be questioned. Then those who have been intimidated into silence will show just how false the whole thing was.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I hope (and suspect) you are right Adrian.

michael harris
michael harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

It’s already questioned from many angles. Take a look at the ‘Climate Etc’ website to see how UNsettled the science is. Also, plenty of defence of the ‘settled’ view on there. Serious arguments; as there should be, given the stakes.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  michael harris

Agree but currently all politicians ignore it and either believe or pretend to.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

They are like starlings that make synchronized turns. Polling is the trigger that will make today’s wake politics as dead as a doornail. We see it in the backlash to illegal immigration and climate madness. Ask any German.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

It is truly amazing how quickly an idea can be discredit and remarkable how those that unwaveringly advocated for it can manage a complete volte face without breaking stride

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

See gender affirming care for reference.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

A corollary manifestation of your point is occurring in the U.S. where nuclear energy, another long-standing anathema to environmentalists, is now trendy. Bill Gates is funding TerraPower, which is building five new nuclear power plants in the western states. Vogtle Power just opened its second new nuclear power plant in Georgia after its first new nuclear facility went online in 2023. These are the first atomic plants in the U.S. since 1977, largely because environmental activism had succeeded in equating nuclear energy with evil.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Today I read an article about how many billionaires in cahoots with governments support nearly every green NGO and that even teachers can plug into this seemingly endless pot of gold.
The whole Green Deal and NetZero was always a great wet dream of socialists, having finally found a cause for redistributing wealth. Why the billionaires interfere is a mystery to me. But maybe they really belief in this Green Religion or they have a big stake in green technology. Probably both…

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I keep a close eye on climate science. I can see valid reason for moving to clean energy sources and sequestering carbon already free in the environment, but the climate politics of the left, rather than climate science, automatically reject any approaches that might actually work.
Build the reactors. Seed the oceans. Let’s actually fix the problem.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I fear that is unlikely. Now that the corporatists are involved at a supranational level, the amount of money behind the global climate bandwagon is so enormous that nationally elected representatives won’t dare argue with it.

It goes without saying that I dearly hope that I am wrong about this.

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 month ago

We are governed by narratives created with cherry picked and skewed data.

When the narrative is no longer popular or politically palatable or runs head long into a wall of reality, nobody admits they were wrong and bad policies enacted, but instead the narrative just fades away to be replaced by another. Where admitting errors were made becomes unavoidable blame is passed onto those who provided the data or those who made the errors extol their own virtue as they are able to adapt to new facts.

Adam P
Adam P
1 month ago

The ‘recent pan-European farming protests‘ were ‘the groundwork for a coherent opposition to aggressive climate change’ policies.
For me, the reason why ‘The success of the European elite’s most ambitious project looks even more remote after Sunday’s EU parliamentary elections‘ is because the pan EU farming protests established political justification to push back against climate ‘alarmism’. Voters were probably not balancing geopolitical interests versus BRIC economies or analysing the economic sustainability of wind power. They were doing 2 things; pushing back against alarmist claims and examining the impact of these policies on their personal wellbeing. As farmers everywhere were protesting environmental policies, the average voter has started to mistrust the greens. When you examine their underlying politics, who can blame them.

Pip G
Pip G
1 month ago

Which is worse? (1) Ignoring Climate Change (or even denying it), or (2) Throwing money at ineffective measures and ‘greenwashing’?

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 month ago
Reply to  Pip G

Climate is change; it has always changed. Where I’m sitting now in NYC was under a half mile of ice 15,000 yrs ago. Just 200 yrs ago the Hudson River would freeze solid. The Thames, too. Long before the rise in atmospheric CO2.
Add to that the ridiculous amount of manipulated data that’s been presented to “prove” the disaster supposedly looming over us, and the censoring of other voices in order to monopolize the narrative and the whole proposition starts to seem pretty silly.
Ignoring Climate Change is really the only sensible thing to do.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 month ago

It’s a bit like Covid; criticism of the ‘right way’ to think is put in tge denier category.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago

These were luxury beliefs, for a luxury era.

Staggering ignorance.
For goodness sake go back to school and learn some basics.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Covid, Covid, Covid

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

All the politicized narratives are crumbling Robbie – gender affirming care, net zero, open borders, lockdowns, DEI in the workplace.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Not for Robbie, they’re not.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

None of those things have anything to do with climate change unless you are a right wing loon ;o)

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

I didn’t say anything about climate change. I referenced net zero. Even you must agree that net zero, as it is constituted by the EU, will do nothing to reduce global temps, yet make its citizens much poorer.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

You have heard of scientists, who called the the IPCC outpourings pseudoscience? There are plenty renowned scientists all over the world, who are sceptical, that man made CO2 (0.0012%) is responsible for the moderate Warming since last century. Maybe time to read some of their work. Maybe start with Professor Christy, Lindzen, Curry, Shaviv and recently Physics Nobel Prize winner Dr.Clauser.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

I am quite prepared to accept the tenets of climate alarmism: that the weather is getting warmer at a rapid rate due to the greenhouse effect of various gases emitted by industry and consumption. But the supposed remedies are worse, as is becoming clear.

(And It’s effing 12° max up here on this summer day)

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Since when has Argentina been in the BRICS alliance ?
Milei’s closest allies are the US and Israel. I heard him say exactly this in a very recent interview.
More BRICS fantasy stuff.

william langdale
william langdale
1 month ago

I am still suprised that the politicians peddling this are suprised that the people of Europe don’t want to join them in the biggest act of economic suicide in history.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
1 month ago

It is incredible that the dumbest, the least informed, and the loudest politicians, obviously unable to understand how energy is produced and utilized, with the help of milions and milions of useful idiots, were able to hijack the agenda of Europe, introducing one-fits-all totalitarian regime of deindustrialization and control over economies of all EU members.

Peter Gray
Peter Gray
1 month ago

The problem with the global warming movement is that it has become a cult, or more appropriately, a church uniting naive environmentalists, de-industrialists, and opportunity-seeking politicians. And then they started a crusade, and who can oppose are crusade absent of a wish to be burnt at the stake, or worse, canceled as an oil industry stooge or an anti-science country bumpkin. we were led to believe that global warming, now fashionably called climate change, is rapid, catastrophic in consequences, carries no benefits to life on Earth, and the only way to stop is by switching electricity generation to wind and solar. By empirical evidence, we now see that none of these dogmas are true.

Energy experts have been warning us for years that replacing current energy sources entirely with wind and solar would be technologically and environmentally almost impossible and a political non-starter. It took only thirty years of drum beating about upcoming Apocalypse (always only a decade away) for the voters to discover that there are still no palm trees in Berlin (never mind Oslo), Greenland and Antarctica are still covered in ice, Florida and Maldives are doing fine and the only place where the global warming is going fast and (always) accelerating is the media. At the same time, we need more, not less, secure energy, most of which is delivered through stable electric grids. We need horizons with meadows and forests not oceans of solar panels and giant windmills. We need transport vehicles that can be supplied with energy rapidly not stranded for hours at a charging station. And we need all of that at the price we can afford.

Jim Haggerty
Jim Haggerty
1 month ago

Just look at France and Germany as an example. Both are constrained on Govt spending so where will the money come from for social programs, defense and green transition costs