Green Party policies fail to tackle emissions

Just because a party calls itself Green doesn't necessarily mean it has the most environmentally friendly policies, argues Nima Sanandaji of the Captus think tank.

It is tempting to assume that the Greens would automatically stand for the most constructive environmental policies. But if we look at the issue of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, we can see that the party’s name does not tell the whole story.

The Green Party’s lukewarm stance towards economic development and modern technology leads to policies which considerably reduce our potential to limit emissions.

The Greens are unique in that they are skeptical towards economical growth as a concept. This not only leads them to favour policies which would limit the ability of Swedish society to grow, but also limits our ability to invest in the environment.

It takes money to develop energy-saving technologies and alternative energy sources. If that money is not to come from an expanding economy, the Greens must face a dilemma – will the funding be made possible through raised taxes or reduced public welfare?

It is not realistic to raise Swedish taxes. Many societal problems – such as welfare dependency, limited entrepreneurship and weak incentives to work and education – are already related to the significant tax burden. Swedish voters will not accept higher taxes, nor will they accept reduced public welfare given the same tax level.

The Green Party’s attitude towards economic growth leads to them proposing an impossible transformation towards an ecological society. Their growth-hostile policies also stand in the way of the innovators and entrepreneurs who the environmentalists hope will deliver and implement new environmentally clean solutions.

The Green Party is not only hesitant towards allowing private enterprise to grow and develop. They also have a very selective approach towards technology, where some technologies are defined as “good” and others as “bad”. The most obvious example of this is the dogmatic demand that nuclear power be dismantled – although this power source is, alongside hydropower, the best way to produce energy with limited greenhouse gases emissions.

At the same time that the Greens want to radically curb emissions of greenhouse gases, they demand the dismantling of an energy source which produces 45 percent of Swedish electricity with very low emissions. The party instead believes in wind-power, which after billions in investment produces less than one percent of Swedish electricity. Or solar power, whose contribution to power supply is close to zero percent.

Through the marginal expansion of nuclear and hydro power, Sweden could eliminate the need for fossil fuels in the production of electricity and free up bio-fuels currently used for electricity in other contexts.

A greater expansion of the two power sources could enable us to export electricity to neighbouring countries which today rely on fossil fuels for electricity (such as Germany and Denmark) and attract energy intensive industries from other countries where electricity is produced in ways which lead to high emissions.

Instead however the Green Party aims to create the need to replace nuclear power with alternative sources of energy. For preservationist reasons, they are not interested in developing hydropower either.

Technological development will soon make it possible to produce transport fuel from, for example, Swedish forests. A key to making such an industry possible is the price of forestry products. If fuel is to come from the forest, trees must grow considerably faster than they do today.

Again, the Green Party is taking a less than pragmatic approach, being skeptical towards fertilizing forests and very much afraid of genetically modified trees which grow at a faster pace. Lastly, the Greens want to leave the EU – a political unity which has a lot to say on international environmental issues.

It is striking how green ideology can lead to policies that have clear drawbacks when it comes to curbing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Nima Sanandaji is president of the Swedish free market think tank Captus. He has conducted research in various fields within the natural sciences at Chalmers University of Technology, the University of Cambridge and The Royal School of Technology.