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Podcast

How Europe and America Are Weatherproofing Climate Policy

Inside episode 22 of Shift Key.

Wind turbine construction.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Jesse is on vacation until August, so this is a special, Rob-only summer episode of Shift Key.

The far right is rising across Europe. The global order seems to be deteriorating. And American politics is careening toward a crisis. Where does climate policy go from here?

On this week’s episode of Shift Key, Rob chats with two leaders at Breakthrough Energy, the Bill Gates-funded climate venture capital and advocacy group. They are Ann Mettler, a former EU official who is now Breakthrough’s vice president for Europe, and Aliya Haq, its vice president for U.S. policy and advocacy. We talk about why Europe was surprised by the Inflation Reduction Act, where American policy goes from here, and how to prepare climate policy for an era of rising geopolitical tensions and security concerns.

This episode of Shift Key is hosted by Robinson Meyer, the founding executive editor of Heatmap.

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Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

Robinson Meyer: Can you give me a compare-contrast on how European policymakers used to think about climate change versus how they’re thinking about it now?

Ann Mettler: Well, as I said, they used to approach them primarily through, we will decarbonize our economy and then, you know, we’ve done our job. But again, going back to the 8% of global CO2 emissions, it’s a drop in the bucket. So, I mean, we really needed to have the focus on global emissions and how we can help address these.

But coming back to your original question, Europe has had two really major shocks. One is obviously 2022, the war in Ukraine breaks out. We have the most serious energy crisis, acute security crisis, we’ve frankly ever had, since the Second World War. And so energy resilience and security are now very important issues.

Then the second big shock — of course on a different magnitude — was really the Americans getting into the climate game. The IRA was sort of a thunderclap on this side of the Atlantic. I honestly cannot say how … it was a moment of humility that within one legislative mandate, the U.S. could really put itself out there and become something that … I think it’s a very serious competitor in this space.

Of course, I personally think that we shouldn’t think in terms of competition because the fact is that both Europe and the United States are behind. So I think if we had a more joined up approach, it would create bottomless opportunity to accelerate the energy transition on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meyer: It is funny because I do feel like, to some degree, Europe was a little — it was surprising to me how much Europe was taken by surprise by the IRA. When the IRA passed, I remember reading the European press, and then a lot of the initial coverage was around business tax rates and stuff, just relatively fiddly aspects of the law that we don’t talk about anymore. And then it felt like it took a few months — it was until November that I remember Macron talking about it during a visit to the U.S. — that it felt like the continent even began to realize the scale of what the U.S. was trying to do with the law.

Aliya Haq: I’ll say as a, you know, aging, grizzled climate activist, that after the Inflation Reduction Act passed, we’re so used to being behind Europe and … you know, decades and decades of trying and never getting further, and then having a law passed that we could then say with a straight face, we’ve taken the largest climate action in global history, that really did feel good.

But I was glad that, you know, that initial reaction, this kind of race to the bottom — like, how dare you, this isn’t good for global competitiveness — and eventually the Europeans kind of coming around realizing, well, wait, we’ve wanted the U.S. to take action for a while, maybe this is a good thing, was funny.

This episode of Shift Key is sponsored by …

Watershed’s climate data engine helps companies measure and reduce their emissions, turning the data they already have into an audit-ready carbon footprint backed by the latest climate science. Get the sustainability data you need in weeks, not months. Learn more at watershed.com.

As a global leader in PV and ESS solutions, Sungrow invests heavily in research and development, constantly pushing the boundaries of solar and battery inverter technology. Discover why Sungrow is the essential component of the clean energy transition by visiting sungrowpower.com.

Music for Shift Key is by Adam Kromelow.

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Robinson Meyer profile image

Robinson Meyer

Robinson is the founding executive editor of Heatmap. He was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covered climate change, energy, and technology.

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