Commentary Climate change

Free trade or climate protection?

At first sight, liberalism and climate protection are rather contrary, Serge Halimi writes in a column in the Hungarian edition of French foreign affairs magazine Le Monde Diplomatique.

The relative success of the Greens at this year’s European elections – they got 10 percent of the MEP seats – has rekindled an old debate about the political identity of the movement.

Are they rather leftist – as indicated by their recent coalition agreements – or more liberal, as shown by veteran Greens like Daniel Kohn-Bendit or Pascal Durand siding with French President Emmanuel Macron? And how does their ideology fit with Green parties running some German cities in coalition with the right?

The unavoidable liberal thinker Milton Friedman said back in 2003 that the environmental issue is overrated as we pollute the environment with every breath. Instead of closing factories for that reason, we might as well commit suicide in order to halt CO2 emissions.

About a decade earlier, economics Nobel laureate Gary Becker said that free trade will curb the excesses of environmental protection and trade unions in order to maintain national competitiveness.

Prior to the European elections, at a debate in France Socialist and Green politicians demanded – using almost the same words as Marine Le Pen – that protectionism should be instated at the borders of the European Union.

Such a radical change in direction is even more significant in the context that free trade is one of the basic tenets of the EU and – not incidentally – the essential element of its strongest economy, Germany.

The Greens strongly argue in favor of locally produced food and its short supply chains that favor the environment. On the other hand, in the coming weeks MEPs will have to ratify three free trade agreements (one with the Mercosur states of South America, one with Canada and one with Tunisia). We will see where those votes will put them on the political spectrum.

Le Monde Diplomatique is a popular French publication with a wide distribution, appearing in 29 languages.

Title image: Climate protection (illustration)

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