Many studies support the finding climate change is deemed a relevant and important issue by the public, but frequently disappears from the public consciousness when individuals are not directly impacted by its effects, supplanted by more immediate economic and geopolitical issues. Rather than removing it from public concern, Creutizig et al. aim to attack environmental concerns and socioeconomic problems concurrently, with a sweeping energy policy change. Creutzig et al. (2014) argue climate change and the European Union (EU) periphery’s economic recession could be mitigated and solved, respectively, by having member country legislators focus efforts on a policy transition toward sustainable, nonconventional sources of energy. The study argues that an energy conversion of this magnitude would have several net positive effects for a plurality of EU member countries on pressing issues such as employment, trade deficits and GDP growth, with focuses on “technical and economic potential for renewable electricity generation across Europe,” “potential co-effects of a European energy transition,” “barriers to a (periphery-focused) European energy transition,” and “the issue of a European energy transition in the periphery to the larger context of a common project for Europe.” The entirely new approach to energy policy implementation outlined in the study may not only be integral to lessening the European economic recession but also to significantly improving governmental efficiency in peripheral EU countries.
The study cites a triad of rationales for focus on changes in peripheral EU country energy production infrastructures: peripheral economic depression affects all EU member states, investment in peripheral member states’ energy security may increase wealth parity across the EU, and a successful recovery from the recession may lead to willingness to contribute to an energy transition. While there would be certain tangible effects of a transition to renewable energy sources in periphery countries (Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Greece), including a projected 0.5%-1.0% increase in GDP due to the multiplier of fiscal spending in Europe being between 0.8 and 21 (Baunsgaard et al. 2012, cited by Creutzig et al. 2014), the most important byproduct may be “a renewed solidarity between European citizens…even if hard to quantify in monetary or other economic units.” A more noticeable change would be that of European employment, particularly in the industrial manufacturing sector. In the European Renewable Energy Directive for 2020, a goal of 20% renewable energy is set, and under this scenario, “Greece is projected to have an employment gain of roughly 1% and Spain of 0.6%, while Ireland only sees a negligibly small but still positive impact on employment,” mostly caused by employment opportunities created by an energy transition. Finally, a majority of peripheral EU countries are net importers of energy, bringing in 2%-15% of their energy from foreign EU states. This lack of energy security is concerning to the authors, and could be solved by tapping into the potential of wind power, which is particularly prevalent on the northern periphery of the EU, in Ireland and Spain. In conclusion, the tangible and intangible effects of a massive changeover to renewable energy would be tremendous, including increased in EU GDP, employment and trade surpluses, and finally, trust. Creutzig et al. make a strong argument for tackling the recent European economic downturn and climate mitigation in one motion, and provide valuable models to prove the net positive effects of bringing climate change into the public consciousness permanently.
Creutzig, F., et al. (2014). “Catching two European birds with one renewable stone: Mitigating climate change and Eurozone crisis by an energy transition.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 38: 1015-1028.