Financial Times Deutschland, 5 October 2012
The EU Energy Commissioner opposes a tightening of the EU’s climate targets. Instead, energy policy should focus more closely on the needs of European industry. In Berlin, Günther Oettinger made jokes about the green “do-gooders” in his own party.
Günther Oettinger fears the decline of Europe if energy prices continue to rise and competitiveness deteriorates further compared to the United States and other parts of the world. He wants to convince his colleagues in the European Commission to introduce an industrial policy objective instead of new climate targets. At a meeting of the European Christian Democrats (EPP) in Berlin last night, Oettinger said the share that manufacturing contributes to the GDP of the economies of the EU should increase from currently 18 percent to 20 percent. Within the European Commission, he is fighting for a corresponding definition.
His appearance before a few dozen party members in Berlin’s Adlon Hotel was a day of reckoning with the EU’s energy and climate policies. Energy policy had long been climate policy, he said, but in the future it must be industrial policy. Addressing MEPs in the hall, he said that he stood by the EU’s 2007 agreed climate targets of 20 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions and a 20 percent share of renewable energies. These objectives would be achieved.
“I strongly advise against more stringent targets after 2020″, Oettinger said. During the years 2007 to 2009, there had been too many “do-gooders” in the European Parliament and climate policy enthusiasm had become excessive. It was useless “to go to Greenland and hug polar bears,” said the CDU politician. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had visited Greenland in August 2007 as part of her climate policy and had been photographed in front of melting icebergs.
Oettinger said that with regards to energy prices the score was three – nil to the United States. The U.S. had increased its own oil production, had become a bigger gas producer than Russia thanks to its shale gas supplies and had lower electricity prices. Because of looming energy independence, in future the United States may have less interest in the security of North Africa. “Without the U.S., the EU member states would have to police the world instead.” In this context, the German decision regarding Libya was not a convincing example. Merkel had decided in 2011 not to participate in the intervention by the U.S. and European countries in favour of the rebels against the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The former Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg asked, incidentally, if the European military was prepared for a future without the U.S. “Rifle associations and fire brigades are stronger than the German army”, Oettinger remarked.
Oettinger’s commitment to industrial interests was met with approval from industry representatives. Peter Willbrandt of copper producer Aurubis said that industry was suffering from massive government interventions. Thyssen Krupp boss Heinrich Hiesinger warned of job losses caused by rising prices for CO2 emissions.
There are sympathies in the EPP Group for the position of Oettinger and for the industry. During the economic crisis, environmental standards should not be raised, said group leader Joseph Daul – this was the only way to secure jobs.
In his speech, Oettinger also complained at the relapse of the EU in terms of research and development. In 2010, only the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia had been among the world’s leading research-oriented companies. “Nokia is not likely to assert itself in the long term in the market,” Oettinger said.
Translation Philipp Mueller