* Industry says suffering major loss of competitiveness
* Report says climate only a small factor
* EU 2030 climate goals under debate
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Nov 14 Europe's abdication from
climate leadership would stunt growth in the region and hand a
huge economic advantage to China and the United States as they
carve out their share of a multi-billion low-carbon market, a
German thinktank said on Thursday.
The report's release coincides with U.N. climate talks
running until the end of next week.
They are hosted by Poland, one of the EU member states to
have embraced the counter-argument that the European Union
should be only a part of, not the leader of global climate
efforts and that acting alone will damage competitiveness.
Germanwatch, a thinktank used by German government
ministries to carry out research, says such a shift would only
harm Europe's ailing industrial sector and it is no longer true
to say the European Union is an isolated environmental leader.
Already China's solar equipment exports are worth almost as
much as its exports of shoes, making it a major threat to EU
technology. In 2011, China's solar exports totalled $35.8
billion compared with $39 billion for shoes, U.N. data showed.
In all, the low-carbon energy products market will be worth
an estimated $500 billion per year by 2050, the report says,
citing independent research and economists.
Apart from China, the world's other top greenhouse gas
emitter the United States has also begun climate action.
While Germany has blocked EU legislation to improve car fuel
efficiency, the United States, known for its gas guzzlers, has
adopted standards to double the efficiency of new cars compared
with those on the road.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was saving jobs by
sheltering luxury carmakers, such as BMW, which has
funded her party, from tougher regulations.
Germanwatch says ultimately her actions will cost, not save
jobs as the rest of the world innovates to capture the economic
and air quality benefits of cutting fuel bills and emissions.
"It's never a good long-term policy to build a protection
wall around industry. In the end protection doesn't eliminate
but increases the need for transformation," Christoph Bals, one
of the report's authors said.
"Industry has legitimate concerns, but they can't blame all
their problems on climate regulation."
China's competitiveness is helped by cheaper labour.
EU industry is concerned the United States has a huge
advantage from cheap energy generated from shale gas, while
green energy charges are inflating EU energy prices.
European gas prices are roughly three times higher than
those in the United States and EU electricity prices are around
2.5 times higher, the European Commission has said.
Germanwatch says costs not prices are the problem and they
can be tackled through energy efficient buildings, for instance,
which would create jobs in construction.
It also wants a deeper 2030 EU greenhouse gas goal (50-55
percent lower than 1990 levels) than the around 40 percent cut
the European Commission is considering.
A Commission analysis found a 40 percent cut would add
around 0.5 percent to annual gross domestic product, in part
because fossil fuel import bills would shrink.