Izabella Kaminska, formerly the Editor of the FT’s Alphaville and now the Editor of the Blind Spot, has flagged up an alarming passage in a document published in January 2021 by Deutsche Bank Research entitled ‘What we must do to Rebuild’. Eric Heyman has written the section about the tough choices the EU must face it if’s to meet its goal of achieving ‘climate neutrality’ by 2050 – Net Zero, in other words – and says the following:
The impact of the current climate policy on people’s everyday lives is still quite abstract and acceptable for many households. Climate policy comes in the form of higher taxes and fees on energy, which make heating and mobility more expensive. Some countries have set minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings or similar rules in other areas. However, climate policy does not determine our lives. We take key consumption decisions, for example whether we travel at all, how much we travel and which means of transport we use, whether we live in a large house or a small apartment and how we heat our homes, how many electronic devices we have and how intensely we use them or how much meat and exotic fruit we eat. These decisions tend to be made on the basis of our income, not on climate considerations.
If we really want to achieve climate neutrality, we need to change our behaviour in all these areas of life. This is simply because there are
no adequate cost-effective technologies yet to allow us to maintain our living standards in a carbon-neutral way. That means that carbon prices will have to rise considerably in order to nudge people to change their behaviour. Another (or perhaps supplementary) option is to tighten regulatory law considerably. I know that “eco-dictatorship” is a nasty word. But we may have to ask ourselves the question whether and to what extent we may be willing to accept some kind of eco-dictatorship (in the form of regulatory law) in order to move towards climate neutrality.
When he says we have to “ask ourselves… whether and to what extent we may be willing to accept some kind of eco-dictatorship” I don’t think he has a Net Zero referendum in mind. Rather, by ‘ourselves’ he means the EU’s ruling class. It has to ask itself whether it’s willing to pass laws forcing the EU’s population to modify its behaviour to meet the 2050 ‘climate neutrality’ target, regardless of whether it has a democratic mandate to do so or not.
I suppose we should be grateful that at least Heyman hasn’t tried to sugar coat this. It should be clear what “eco-dictatorship” means, even to those most reluctant to accept that Net Zero zealots have little love for democracy.