By Michael Bastasch
Fighting global warming isn’t just about deploying more green energy, it’s also about imposing “profound lifestyle changes” for millions of people, according to leaked European Union documents obtained by The Guardian.
“It will require exploring possibilities for realising ‘negative’ emissions as well as profound lifestyle changes of current generations,” read the document laying out the European Commission’s agenda. It was presented to foreign ministers in Belgium Monday.
“The potential scale of such a deep transformation will require a wide societal debate in Europe,” according to the document which calls for a European-wide debate on how people need to change their day-to-day lives to fight warming.
For years, European regulators have been trying to fight global warming through a variety of schemes targeting people’s energy consumption. From cap-and-trade, to high energy taxes, to green energy mandates, little has actually worked to drastically decrease carbon dioxide emissions.
In recent years, environmentalists have even been frustrated by Europe’s cap-and-trade system. In 2013, carbon prices in the EU’s cap-and-trade system hit rock bottom and it became economical to once again start burning coal — environmentalists then deemed the system “worthless.”
Europe’s CO2 emissions have come down, but it’s not clear climate policies have had any appreciable effect on this trend — since CO2 intensity of the economy is always decreasing as industries use energy more efficiently.
“CO2 intensity in the economy has come down,” environmental economist Richard Tol told a crowd gathered at the libertarian Cato Institute last fall, “but you can’t really see a trend break in 1990. It just seems that the last 20 years were a continuation of the trends of the 20 years before.”
“And this is true for the United states, where there has been some climate policy, but it’s also true for some of the countries — Germany, Japan, United Kingdom — who have consistently claimed to be in climate policy and claim to have done a whole lot to reduce their emissions,” Tol said. “It’s just not visible in the data.”
EU leaders are now looking to capitalize on the United Nations Paris deal that was hashed out in December as a way to kickstart policy debates over how to change the way people live after years of failed energy schemes.
As part of the U.N. treaty, the EU has pledged to cut CO2 emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. But the leaked document added even deeper cuts that could be on the way after the U.N. publishes its next climate report in 2018.
It’s not exactly clear what sorts of “profound lifestyle changes” the EU wants its population to make, but the U.N. has put forward suggestions in several reports on how they want people to lower their environmental footprint.
One major activity the U.N. is targeting is what people eat. The U.N. basically wants people to eat less red meat and even supplement their diets with insects.
For years, U.N. officials have been pushing rich countries to cut red meat out of their diets because of methane emissions from cows and the amount of water it takes to sustain livestock.
“Keeping meat consumption to levels recommended by health authorities would lower emissions and reduce heart disease, cancer, and other diseases,” former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told The Guardian last year.
“And of course there are alternative sources of protein. For example, raising insects as an animal protein source,” Annan said. “Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat. They make up part of the diet of two billion people and are commonly eaten in many parts of the world.”
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