It was a historic site, in café Landtmann in Vienna, where the European Liberal Forum had organized our debate on the green economy. Historic, not merely because the café exists from 1873 onwards, and because a large number of famous guests dined here, from Sigmund Freud to Romy Schneider, and from queen Juliana of the Netherlands to Sir Paul McCartney (as the site proudly mentions). Historic too, because mostly, the room in which we debated is used for press conferences, and therefore witnessed many sweeping statements before we made our contribution.
The green economy was what we discussed. And the question: what is the characteristic of a liberal approach to this theme? In what would liberals differ from, e.g. the Green parties? For some, that was an existential question. Intergenerational solidarity for instance, would not that be a distinctive criterion?
In the shadow of the Hofburg and the parliament building, the debate circled around the well-known theme of ‘growth’. The green economy as sustainable growth, consultant Stefan Gara asked, would not that be a contradiction in itself? Something like a peaceful war? As false as the expression ‘green jobs’? Whereas the same Stefan Gara in everyday life is involved with schemes for a more sustainable energy supply of Vienna. And whereas his latest project is the design of a sustainable transport system for the entire city. What Stefan actually wanted to say: let us say precisely what we want in pursuing the green economy, let us not be trapped in rhetorical generalities.
Moderator and journalist at the leading Austrian weekly Profil, Georg Ostendorf, wondered whether sustainability would not put a break on innovation. And whether new technologies in a green economy would be cost-effective. And whether Austrian farmers would want to go along with innovations in their profession. Others shared this last doubt. One participant in the debate, having lived himself in the Netherlands for some time, thought my presentation to be overly Dutch and optimistic. Europe still has a long way to go. Or would his opinion testify to the diversity to which a green economy would contribute?
I defended the position, to no surprise of readers of this site, I may hope, that economic growth can only be green growth. Because technology develops with great speed towards sustainability. And I got support for that.
I had planned to eat at least one Sachertorte at my visit to Vienna. But I did not succeed. On the way to café Sacher a Klimt exhibition caught my attention. And my host Ronald Pohoryles forbade me to taste a Sachertorte on my return to the airport. Lousy bakers they were, at the airport. No good testimony to his city’s qualities.