doubling of GDP. But the huge numbers proved very effective in creating the sense of a calamity induced by emissions reduction goals.
Related to this was the argument that if we reduce emissions in the North, businesses would merely move overseas, producing a loss of jobs and competitiveness and no net gains in emissions reductions. In a globalised economy of capital mobility and internationalised structures of production, companies argued, there is no point in one country taking action if others don't do the same. This has become known as the problem of 'carbon leakage'. The argument was used effectively in particular to block proposals for a carbon tax in the EU in the wake of the UN Rio summit in 1992. The prospect of the tax, according to The Economist, 'spurred the massed ranks of Europe's industrialists to mount what is probably their most powerful offensive against an EC proposal'.8 Shocked at the intensity of business mobilisation against the tax, Carlos Ripa de Meana, EU Environment Commissioner at the time, described the lobbying offensive as a 'violent assault'.
THE BREAK-UP OF THE ANCIEN RÉGIME
Then came the fall of the old guard or ancien régime. The fossil fuel lobby that had held sway for so long saw its power start to wane. It didn't happen overnight of course. But the rhetoric of the fossil fuel lobby and opponents of action on climate change that limiting GHG emissions would have disastrous economic effects ceased to resonate with many business people during the mid 1990s.
If you were manufacturing in an industry where your energy costs were high but new technologies and production processes promised significant cost savings and efficiency gains, or if you were a corporate consumer noticing the steady price reductions for wind or solar energy, would you be persuaded that reducing emissions would be economically disastrous? In addition, if at the same time you became increasingly convinced that climate change was real and would itself have many negative consequences, would you continue to be single-mindedly focused on the price increases for your energy inputs? If, for example, ,you were an insurer noticing increased payouts to extreme weather events, a farmer vulnerable to crop failures or a banker investing in businesses in low-lying areas, would you only think about the increased costs caused by carbon taxes or regulations, or would you also start to make the connection between carbon emissions and climate impacts?
8 The Economist, 'Europe's industries play dirty', 9 May 1992, pp. 91-2.
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