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The climate change ‘cost or opportunity’ debate: why has it not been settled?

A worrying number of European states, industries and even average citizens are still convinced that fighting climate change will be too costly and risky in terms of jobs and growth. The current economic crisis is creating even greater anxiety, giving rise to the idea that spending significant money now on clean technologies and energy efficiency upgrades is not wise since it will make Europe too vulnerable to outside competition.

But the Stern Report, reputable consultancies like McKinsey, institutions like the European Commission and expert after expert argue that the costs of non-action will be much greater; that not taking major and bold steps now to transform the EU into a low-carbon economy will mean that Europe will suffer unimaginably in the long term from a collapse of our current economic systems, which remain dependant on increasingly expensive and CO2-intense fossil fuels.

Why does the debate continue? Is there a real threat that a ‘third industrial revolution’, characterised by greater resource and energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, and cleaner transport, will undermine the well-being of European economies and citizens? Or is the debate being ‘hijacked’ by a few, yet powerful, industrial interests?

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