duminică, 29 decembrie 2013

Romanian environmental policy in European context: which direction?

Does an environmental policy at the European level have a chance? Most EU states want to keep it a national competency, although the economic crisis pushes them to do frequent cost-benefit analyses. In a time when every job counts, governments are not comfortable in taking measures that lead to layoffs in industries, regardless of pollution. Nevertheless, a strong green lobby, who I’ve met both in Brussels and in the Member States, regularly oppose lobbies such as the automotive industry (the German being notable).

On the other hand, the sustainable development sector, including green industries, such as renewable energy, are still less competitive in terms of costs, price, etc. This diminishes its attractiveness. Developing, for example, the renewable energy industry would create jobs. However, this is often not justified in the eyes of decision makers, as they compare the gains of creating jobs, to the loss of tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of jobs in the traditional energy sector. That, when industries are put against each other, is the deciding factor.

Speaking of policy makers, and politicians: there are strong, active green parties in many European member states, who support government policy plans, providing that favourable developments in the environmental policy sector are implemented. However, the macro trend toward re-industrialization of Europe, in order to increase the EU’s global competitiveness, proves to put pressure on these developments. There was a time that being green was the trend, embraced by political parties from right to left, but the needs of the crisis changed the situation. The need for green got a superior “flavour”, while the creation of jobs and restarting the economy became the primary task.

The green cause should not despair, however, because time works in its favour: green technologies are getting cheaper and environmental needs are becoming more pressing, both in Europe and the world: especially Shanghai, the city which is regularly covered in the news due to its pollution. In addition, accidents such as the one at the Fukushima nuclear plant, stifles competition and the development of nuclear energy.

The fact is that the European Union will try to perform their self-imposed commitment, validated by the European Council in 2007, when there was a unilateral commitment to reduce emissions with 20%, possibly even 30%, if other developed countries would assume comparable targets.

Romania has to fulfil these targets as well. From a "de-industrialization", step by step, in the 90s, to a need to restore the industrial sector to create a sustainable economy today. What can we expect in Romania from discussions regarding exploitation, re-industrialization, and construction of highways? We can expect controversy, strong differences of opinion, but a clear winner in the end. That will likely be the camp aimed at resource exploitation and industrialization. That does not mean that Romania will not meet European standards - on the contrary.

It is important to note that those who manage to balance environmental needs with economic development will gain political and social capital. It remains to be seen who has the wisdom to do that.

Dan LUCA / Brussels


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