First do no harm – no subsidies for Šoštanj

SONY DSCTo help stop the planet warming to a disastrous extent Europe must increase the price of energy paid by energy consumers. A huge redirection of private and public investment is needed. And unless we are extremely successful in increasing the energy efficiency of our economy, we will almost certainly also need schemes to organise a socially acceptable reduction of average working time (see here).

All this is very difficult. Taxes have to be raised against opposition by both households and firms threatening relocation. Majorities need to be found for disruptive, large-scale investment projects. The social and redistributional consequences of, and tricky questions of personal freedom surrounding, issues such as energy taxes and collective working time reduction need to be faced.

All the more distressing then to read – hat-tip to Ramon Pena-Cases – that the European public authorities are spending large sums of public money in subsidising the building and operation of a huge lignite (brown coal) plant in Šoštanj, Slovenia. According to EurActive it has already been accorded EUR110 million for the European Investment Bank and benefited from a loan of EUR200 million from the Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Now an additional EUR440 million loan guarantee is due to be disbursed. An analyst (Pippa Gallup, Bankwatch is claims that:

Šoštanj is forecast to continue operating until 2054 and would take up almost all of Slovenia’s emissions allowances, preventing its decarbonisation targets being met.

Given the EU’s ambitious climate targets, committing a single euro of public money to such a plant, never mind more than half a billion, is madness of the first order. The harder it is to cure a patient, the more important it is first to do no harm.