We have lost count of the declarations assorted with very long term objectives, in the horizon…So, the European Union is forecasting, in the horizon 2050 to have a carbon neutral economy, objective which has been supported by France. The United Kingdom, in the horizon 2040, will forbid the sale of fossil fuel vehicles. France had decided to cap the share of the nuclear power production at 50% in 2025. Confronted with the lack of realism of that proposal, the government has postponed this commitment in the horizon 2030, which is still quite unrealistic due to intermittent character of renewable and the lack of progress in storing electricity. Germany is more precise: in 2038 will be closed all the coal power plants, even if, for political reasons, this objective has few chance to be reached. Many plants are located in the former East-German regions along with the mines they supply. The political crisis which has burnt out after the regional elections in Thuringe shows to which point the issue is sensitive. That does not impeach the governments to take commitments with a maturity so long that the probability to see them realized is low.
The first remark is about the choice of the word: horizon. Everybody knows that the characteristic of the horizon is that it moves back when you approach it. To associate the word to a date constitutes a perfect oxymoron. But it is an “element of language” which seems to be convincing because it is more and more used. It allows to the one who uses it to show the proof of his resolution to hit a laudable objective without committing himself into a concrete and immediate action.
It is not possible, obviously, to change in one day practices or habits which have been identified as harmful. Nothing impeaches to plan actions inscribing themselves into a longer prospect but having also an immediate effect. To invoke far away horizons allows to getting out of doing it along with providing satisfaction to the part of the opinion which doesn’t make the difference between action and communication. The recourse to that method which is generalizing is all the more surprising that it seems ignoring that political officials mandate has a limited time. In France, the president and the members of the National Assembly have an effective active period of five years. As soon as it is about public expenditures or the level of social benefits as pension, the rule is even tougher due to the annual budget principle. That doesn’t impeach ministers to announce the suppression of the home taxes at the end, and that time not in the horizon, of 2023. It is the same for the proposed measures included in the pension system reform. Guarantees offered after the current legislature carry no value. They will have to be validated by the political leaders in charge from 2022.
That trend shows the worrying drift of the political organizations and their leaders who are sheltering themselves into an abstract language and who set to their actions imaginative agenda. Who can seriously pretend what will be, in the European Union or in the United Kingdom, the energy needs in 2050 and car owner choices? The poor success of electric vehicles from consumers would alert these leaders as the violent reactions observed in France after the decisions to increase taxes on diesel. They were, in that case, much too brutal as when it was decided to build on the major highways signal gantries to make trucks contributing to their maintenance. The good balance between measures with instant impact and the determination of long term objectives has not been found.
Either we refuge into an aggressive message with a very long agenda, but without any immediate impact, or without any consultation or pedagogy actions are launched which it will be necessary to abandon due to the discontent they generate, even when they are going into the right direction. Who can challenge that diesel engines emissions are noxious for health and that it would be opportune, at least, to stop to grant them with a privileged fiscal regime? But to abandon this status, it would have been necessary to avoid any brutality and to renounce to announcement effects. The same reasoning could be applied to signal gantries. It is absurd to grant an advantage to truck transportation through offering free access to networks to the detriment of rail transport when it generates harming emissions of all sorts and, atop of that, when it contributes to the deterioration of these networks, which will cost to the taxpayers a non negligible charge.
To the opposite, we find well accepted decisions, except at the local level, but quite opposite to the searched objectives. Fessenheim nuclear plant closure is a good example of that. Geological reasons invoked to justify it are fanciful and the Nuclear Safety Authority, which is especially watchful, has not issued any doubts about the ability to the power plant to normally operate. Strasbourg cathedral is still there for centuries and a nuclear power plant has much stronger resistance capacities to tackle to eventual telluric quakes. Is it necessary to move the Issenheim retable, that masterwork painted by Mathias Grunewald at the beginning of the 16th century and which is showed inside the Unterlinden museum in Colmar because it could be threatened by a sudden flood? Nobody is thinking about that. The truth is elsewhere. The plant was selling half its production to Germany and was competing with coal plants. The pressure of German Greens on their French colleagues has lead to that absurd decision and which is costly for everybody, atop of that to the state because it will have to pay EDF at least 400 million euro to compensate the company about the losses the closure, without any reason, of the plant generates.
The success of a political action lies in the best possible compromise between the adopted decisions and the way officials are able to make them accepted by the population. A large part of the gap which separates today the population from the so-called elites is coming from their incapacity, not to take appropriate decisions but to know how to make them accepted. Announcements effects have become a true obsession to the detriment of precise and concrete measures with immediate application. The paradox lies in the point that the farer is the agenda, the more speeches are well received without giving rise to hesitations and even less criticisms. Yet, never the evolution of the world has been so unpredictable. Who could have thought, just five years ago, that the United States could put into question multilateralism, that United Kingdom would exit from the European Union and that most of its members would be confronted with political instability caused by the obligation to constitute fragile coalitions? To that must be added the financial crisis and the catastrophes as the one which affects China and which carries heavy economic consequences.
In 1950, the American novelist Ray Bradbury was writing, in his Martian Chronicles, that at the beginning of the Twentieth century, Earth habitants would leave their planet to move to Mars. We were there obsessed by flying saucers. We are not anymore talking about that today. The priority is not to imagine the world in 2050 but to build it every day through concrete decisions applicable and well received to remedy to the growing instability which threats us and to the risks which we are heading for.