The latest from the FT on EU climate change policy:
“The fight against climate change could soon be carried into the wardrobes of the European Commission’s 11,700 male bureaucrats, as the Brussels body ponders whether to crack down on neckties during the summer months. Senior commissioners hope that tie-less officials will tolerate greater levels of heat during July and August and so, in turn, reduce the need for air-conditioning in the Commission’s 64 office buildings across Brussels.
According to a note circulated by Charlie McCreevy, the internal market commissioner, this approach has been pioneered in Japan. Mr McCreevy, who has just returned from an official visit to east Asia, wrote to his fellow commissioners late last month saying: “I noted in Japan that Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe has given the lead in telling his ministers and civil servants not to wear ties in summertime. This allows office temperatures to be set higher and so cut down on energy use for cooling of offices…
…McCreevy argues that Brussels should examine similar steps “as a potential contribution from the Commission to reduce global warming.. The Commission estimates that its buildings emit 56,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. It believes that reducing the cooling or heating of room temperatures by just 1°C would cut emissions by 10 per cent.”
As an aside, in 2006 alone China built about 92 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generation capacity, more than the entire fleet of generating plants in the United Kingdom, adding 500 millions tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent to 5% of the world total) to the country's annual emissions.
The Commission’s latest “contribution” to fighting climate change is self evidently meaningless – which makes it all the more surprising that much of the media does not scrutinize more carefully the EU’s record on this score and still continues to run stories like this, whilst often buying into the intellectually lazy assertion that Brussels needs ‘more power’ in order to fight global warming. This has inevitably become entwined in the debate over the new EU treaty – which we are told should be seen as an essential part of this green package.
As we’ve argued many times previously, the EU has not been good news for the environment, particularly given the Union’s flagship policy in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), has been, and will continue to be a total failure.
So it is not at all clear what possible good EU treaty change could do for the environment. The EU doesn’t need any more powers to fight climate change (it already has plenty in that respect). It simply needs the political will to develop policies that actually work – and that will mean far more than a change in the office dress code.