Poul Nyrup Rasmussen's Blog

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Winds of change

We northern Europeans often complain about the blustery, rainy, windy weather that batters our shores, but this climate also offers us great potential to face the economic and environmental storms overhead. That’s because on our very coastlines we have a resource which can provide more energy than the Gulf oilfields and create thousands of jobs, but with zero emissions: wind.

Today the dark clouds of recession and climate change hang heavy over Europe, threatening both our economic present and future. Europe is not doing enough to tackle climate change or to tackle unemployment. Yet making the investments to switch to renewable energy and energy efficiency would create the new jobs that could help lift us out of the crisis.

Europe needs to be bolder. We need ambitious projects and decisive action to invest in ‘green growth’. One particular project has been arousing great interest recently, and affects some of our countries.

The six EU Member States which surround the North Sea – Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, the UK and France – and Norway – should look very closely and seriously at a plan developed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) of Rem Koolhaas, which proposes an electricity ‘supergrid’ to connect a series of existing and yet-to-be-built offshore wind turbines. According to the OMA, the Ring would enable fewer connections with the coast, avoiding the necessity of connecting every wind farm with the grid separately, and would massively increase storage capacity. It would cost 200 billion euros and take 40 years to build, and would leave Europe entirely energy self-sufficient.

This is a perfect example of the sort of ambitious ‘green growth’ projects Europe needs to be looking at, the sort of project which requires commitment from regional, national and European levels if it is ever to become a reality. It’s the sort of big thinking that Europe has been missing. It would be a huge mistake for any EU member state to think they can tackle either climate change or the recession on their own. The PES is calling for smart green growth in its manifesto for the European elections because the global scale of climate change, and the scale of the projects needed to fight it, makes European cooperation essential.

Such projects have the potential to deliver a massive blow to the recession. The North Sea Ring would, according to OMA, create 700,000 jobs, not to mention the economic benefits of energy security that it would create.

Despite the recession renewable energies and making houses energy efficient are two industries where production, profits and employment are still growing. In Germany ‘greentech’ already employs more people that either the car industry or the engine-construction industry.

So it can and does work. And green growth is not just limited to the North Sea ring or similar mega projects. Europe also needs to invest in making homes energy efficient, in building electric cars to cut emissions, store energy and renew the car sector, and in adapting and greening energy grids to transport wind and solar power to all corners of the continent.

But it wont happen on its own. It needs public support, it needs Government support at all levels including at the European level, and it needs political will. Today activists, candidates, MEPs and national and local politicians from the PES political family are holding the third in our historic series of European Days of Action, on the topic “Transforming Europe into the leading global force against climate change”.

That’s because we think a progressive majority in the next European Parliament is essential to get projects like the North Sea Ring, and the European cooperation it needs, moving.

Posted by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen