• Hans-Werner Sinn

Well meant is not well done.

(Reading time: 2 - 4 minutes)

A letter from ... Hans-Werner Sinn. The emeritus president of the Munich ifo Institute questions climate policy and the overestimated role of electric cars in achieving climate goals.

From an engineering point of view, the turn to the electric car can now be welcomed - it is elegant, robust, has a strong sprint, drives quietly and does not require a complicated gearbox. But: Es cannot be moved without CO2 emissions, as the European legislator claims, if it includes the CO2 emissions of these cars with a value of zero in its calculations.

Such a value is not even true for Norway, where electricity is generated almost emission-free from hydropower.

If one considers Germany's current energy mix and the amount of energy used in battery production, the CO2 emissions of battery-electric cars are only slightly higher than those of a diesel engine in the best case, but otherwise far higher. Together with my colleagues Christoph Buchal and Hans-Dieter Karl, I have prepared a study on this subject. You can find them at: www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/sd-2019-08-sinn-karl-buchal-motoren-2019-04-25.pdf.

Whether Europe's efforts will at all pay off for the climate, is, as we explain in the Post Scriptum to our text, also for another reason in the stars. It cannot be ruled out that the oil that is no longer burned in Europe will be used in other countries. The Paris climate agreement only provides for a system of voluntary commitments without sanctions for CO2 reduction, and the US has already announced that it will withdraw from the agreement. This creates the danger that other countries will also follow the lead of the USA. Europe would then not remain alone with its efforts alone. Diese would also be completely counteracted with regard to the climate target. If oil owners cannot be persuaded to leave the oil that Europeans no longer use in the ground, the tankers will simply land elsewhere and sell their oil there.

There will then be a reduction in world market prices, which will subsidise and stimulate consumption in those countries that do not participate in the austerity effort. In this respect, there may not only be a small reduction in CO2 emissions, but no reduction at all, because other countries emit as much CO2 as Europe saves. Perhaps the oil sheiks will then produce more for some time because they want to make up for the lower prices with higher quantities or sell their resources prematurely before politics spoils their sales opportunities. Then oil prices would fall even more and countries that do not participate in energy saving would have an even greater advantage.

I am aware that, despite these connections, Germany has committed itself internationally to reducing its CO2 emissions because it wants to do something good for the world. It would be better for me, however, if it were clear to the public that these benefits might not take the form of a slowdown in climate change, but of a reduction in the cost of fossil energy for the world's major consumers. Unsere Victims may help very different social strata than those suffering from climate change. Since Europe is shifting to the production of small cars, even more giant SUVs can be driven in the USA than ever before.

If you want to do good, you have to ask yourself whether the measures that have been implemented have any effect at all. This discussion has not yet taken place in Germany because the entire climate problem is being discussed with regard to the possibilities of limiting consumption by technical means. Instead of thinking about how to change the behaviour of fossil fuel suppliers on the world markets, without which unfortunately nothing can be achieved. ®

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