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Eco-sceptic Czech President turns up heat

Personal liberty and the free market are in danger from radical environmentalism, argues Czech President Vaclav Klaus on his recent visit to Romania

February 2009 - From the Print Edition

Czech President Vaclav Klaus is the grand contrarian of EU politics. The 67-year-old ex-Prime Minister is a vocal critic of both Government intervention and a common EU financial policy, but the main target of his anger is the trend he calls environmental fundamentalism.
This climate-change-busting, wind turbine-hugging and pro-regulation movement undermines Klaus’s pet ideology – the 1980s neo-liberalism of small Government, the primacy of the market and allowing business to look after itself.
The President is afraid of what he calls the “rapidly spreading ideology of global warming alarmism” and international proposals to “radically change human society” to cope with it.
He argues that the Earth’s climate has remained much the same for the last 10,000 years and that the current planetary warming is part of a natural fluctuation. In the past he has said that climate change is not made by man or CO2 emissions. “An imminent climate catastrophe is out of question,” Klaus firmly stated.
Radical environmentalism has an ulterior motive, according to Klaus. He argues that it is an attempt by a small group of influential people to propagate a power base by using the fear of imminent disaster. From this movement, the Czech head of state has blamed climatologists, who he says advocate global warming as a means to secure research funding. He also hit out at politicians, whom he states are seizing on the popular issue to further their careers, as well as bureaucrats for trying to maximise their budgets in the environmental sector and a new industry of consultants in environmentalism, which live from Government hand-outs. He believes the main casualties of this coup will be economic growth and personal liberty.
“Global warming alarmists ask for unprecedented expansion of Government intrusion, intervention and control of our lives,” he has said. “This dictates how we live, how we behave, how we eat and how we travel.”
Although many fear that the global financial crisis will force businesses to suspend their long-term environmental programmes for short-term gain, the Czech President argues that the current situation will give opportunities for radical ecologists. “It will take several years for the world economy to return to normal economic growth, provided it won’t be halted forever by the acceptance of the irrational environmentalists’ dogma of man-made global warming,” he said in a recent speech at Dimitrie Cantemir University in Bucharest. “[But] this is something I consider quite probable.”
Instead the President supports laissez-faire capitalism, which some economists argue is the main cause of the current financial disaster. He wants businesses to continue in a race for survival, with fewer but healthier companies emerging, while others fail. Klaus opposes the recent western rescue packages for industries, such as bank nationalisations. “The business cycle will not be helped by populist gestures which will bring unintended consequences in the future,” he says. Further regulation, the Head of State fears, will undermine free market radicalism which, he argues, is the root of prosperity.
Last November, the European Commission’s action plan to combat the effects of the financial crisis proposed releasing one billion Euro for energy efficiency in buildings and five billion Euro for clean technology, particularly in the car sector. “I oppose these measures as an economist,” Klaus said to a question from The Diplomat. “Government intervention has unintended consequences, which bring more trouble than benefits. I do not think something new or something much better can be discovered just now and introduced into the economy that has not proved to be beneficial in past.”
He argues that businesses should invest in technology based on the demands of the market, not due to Government financing. “Investing in innovation and technology is the natural rational inevitable behaviour of all firms,” argues Klaus. “I do not think political leaders can organise innovation. Things grow from the economy – it’s in the interests of firms to make innovations.”
The EU’s climate change package will not be among the priorities for debate during the Czech Republic’s current six-month tenure as EU President.

By Michael Bird



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