If climate policy does hurt

If climate policy does hurt

No, you can just keep barbecuing! And we are not going to say that you should eat less meat. Or maybe a little less flying. Because climate policy should remain fun. We really don’t need to change our way of life. No, don’t be so sour. Maybe we should replace some pots and pans, because we won’t be cooking on gas anymore. But we can!

If there’s one thing that scares politicians, it’s climate policy that hurts citizens. And so there are constantly reassuring words: yes, we are going to do great things, no, you won’t notice anything bad. Politicians prefer to turn climate policy into a win-win story. We can become number 1 in the climate at the Olympic Games, beamed Mark Rutte (VVD) this summer. Rutte is fond of green industrial politics, because it provides jobs and money, he hopes. There is also a similar win-win for houses: when people insulate or switch to solar energy, they have money left over. It’s one big green party.

Half a million households now live in energy poverty, especially outside the Randstad

It’s understandable that politicians don’t want to upset people with thunder sermons about flying and frying sausage. But the happy story is a risky strategy. Because it arouses anger when climate policy turns out to hurt. And the question is whether it can be realized. For example, some economists question the hope that climate policy will create jobs. Those jobs may not be there.

Now that energy prices are rising in Europe, you immediately see fears grab politicians by the throat (even though the link with climate policy is being discussed). With the ‘yellow vest’ protests in France still fresh in their minds, governments are now quickly pulling out their wallets. The tax on the energy bill will be reduced, the House of Representatives decided on Thursday.

I don’t think the issue is so much that climate policy is going to hurt. That seems pretty inevitable to me, especially during the transition period to a climate-friendly economy. There will be losers. The issue seems to me Who it hurts. Because up to now, climate policy has often turned out to be unequal. The rich Tesla driver catches a lot of climate subsidies, while poor households suffer from energy poverty.

TNO outlined it very precisely this week. At the moment half a million households live in energy poverty, especially outside the Randstad. They have a low income and high energy costs due to a poorly insulated house. Every rise hits them hard. There is more threat: almost four million households have poorly insulated houses and can do little about it themselves. They are dependent on the landlord or have too little money to renovate their own house. Small subsidies and higher energy taxes do not help this group to become more sustainable, according to TNO, but can cause financial problems. So better policy is needed here.

MP Pieter Omtzigt argued this week that poverty is difficult to see in the statistics. This is perhaps even more true for the costs of climate policy. How climate policy affects you also depends on where you live. In a region where public transport is scarce, road pricing is harder than in the Randstad. That is why TNO advocates targeted aid: first isolate social rented houses in the neighborhoods where there is energy poverty.

In the midst of the grand climate plans that are now sounding in The Hague, a good view of the people who get stuck in the coming years is especially needed.

Marike Stellinga is an economist and political reporter. She writes about politics and economics here every week.

If climate policy does hurt
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