EFL Panel: Is It More Important to Save the Euro than the Environment?


Jim Skea and Dimitri Zenghelis

3 panellists discuss the economics of environmental investment in Europe and around the world, in an event organised by students of the MSc SEF

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“Is it more important to save the Euro than the Environment?”  This was the question posed to a panel of three prominent leaders in the environmental and financial sectors to shed light on the current status of the Euro and its impact on the environment.

The special panel was held on 26th June 2012 at Imperial College London, organised by students from the MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures course, with collaborative help from The Energy Futures Lab.  Speakers included Jim Skea, Research Director of the UK Energy Research Centre and professor at Imperial College, Dimitri Zenghelis, Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Chief Economist at Cisco Climate Change Practice, and Oliver Morton, The Economist’s briefings editor and former Chiefs News and Features Editor of Nature. Together, the three panel participants quickly engaged in dissecting the question at hand.

Jim Skea began by stating that the Euro and the environment cannot be saved independently of one another. Jim further delivered a rather eye-opening approach by explaining that the environment cannot be “saved” as it will continue to thrive despite any economic actions taken. The quality, however, of the environment remains in the hands of mankind.

Dimitri Zenghelis agreed with Jim, and propagated more discussion around economic theories that persist today that have negative effects on the environment. He highlighted that economic downturn, which we see today, often yields decreased consumption that provokes positive environmental consequences. As we shift out of economic downturn, Dimitri stressed the importance of sustainable economic redevelopment to embrace greener, more efficient practices that will aid in symbiotic benefits for the economy and the environment.

Oliver Morton concluded the panel discussion by stating the problem and solution as a cost-benefit analysis. With the euro, we can see that even the seemingly exorbitant cost of saving the euro (largely borne by Germany) is likely less than the cost of the euro failing. But with the environment, the costs and benefits are not borne by the same parties. When it comes to climate change, there is mitigation, there is adaptation, but inevitably there is also suffering.

The event concluded with engaging questions from the audience that ranged from the relevance and effectiveness of feed-in-tariffs in stimulating both economic growth and environmental health to the role of developing countries in satisfying the resource demands from mineral-hungry Western nations. In a vote to answer the posed question, it was unanimously decided that it is impossible to choose between the Euro and the environment.

However, the discussion ended on a more pensive note as the audience and panellists remained indecisive when asked if economic growth was needed to save both the euro and the environment. The event certainly provided plenty of food for thought.

by Leslie Hayes-L

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Darren Grey

Darren Grey
Faculty of Engineering

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