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Capitalist ideology – according to which the market can resolve all problems – has, in these last few days, reached the apex of the absurd. We have learned, thanks to Green Euro-deputy Claude Turmes, that European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has been blocking a proposed energy-efficiency action plan. This text is supposed to compel member states to reduce their energy consumption by 20 percent and to propose specific measures to attain that objective. Reducing energy consumption is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The reason for this obstruction by the Commission? The implementation of energy efficiency would bear on carbon market prices. Consequently, there would be fewer “emission rights” on the market. Consequently, their price would drop. Now the European Commission – with Member State approval – has based its fights against climate change on the emissions market.

So they have just rejected the most efficient solution in favor of … a method that has not yet really proven itself. Implemented since 2005, it moves painfully forward, given the drop in prices evading VAT. At this time, the price for a ton of CO2 is 15 Euros – below the energy tax French consumers are going to pay. In fact, the rules of the emissions market’s operation, the result of a compromise with the industries it affects, are too lax: in consequence, the price that develops remains too low to stimulate a rapid reduction in emissions.

Moreover, by means of another type of market, the so-called “mechanism for clean development,” the European Union means to avoid realizing a big part of its reduction commitment. Indeed, I would need to write ten articles like this one to comprehensively explain how this whole system works. The carbon market is fractionally simpler than the derivatives market, if you see what I mean.

The basic problem is that it amounts to confiding management of the fight against climate change to the financial industry. The latter has, as we know, caused the current crisis and demonstrated its ability to escape all government control. Do you trust Goldman Sachs to act in the interests of humanity in the carbon market? In reality, as long as government – which in principle represents the public interest – has not resumed control over the financial system, we cannot hand over responsibility for the fight against climate change to the market.

In the short term, one thing is clear: the European Union must settle on true energy conservation objectives. If it gives that up, it will lose all credibility with respect to climate change, and, above all, the principal means to confront it.


Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.

Cross-posted at Truthout.

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