Ideally, we make the right choice at the right time. But I am sure you will agree with me that in practice, all too often we do exactly the opposite when that time has come. Or our timing is off and we make the right choice at exactly the wrong time.

I probably don't need to explain that in order to accelerate the energy transition, we will have to make a choice. Given what is going on in the East, the main issue is energy independence, while in the West we see that the IPCC has, for the umpteenth time, highlighted that climate change has already begun. There is only a narrow path left that we can take in order to avoid a catastrophe.

The Dutch government’s campaign ‘Everyone does their bit’ to encourage energy saving already addresses this. The aim is of course that everyone should start making the right sustainable choices. And we have already seen several promising initiatives to enhance sustainability and increase the production of renewable energy.

There are plenty of examples of new technology offering a combination of sustainability and progress. But the pace is agonisingly slow. Smart choices are not being made because they lack a basis of support, because ‘feasible and affordable’ or ‘visual pollution’ turn out to be decisive arguments for continuing to languish on the sidelines.

But the right time appears to be nearly here. The call for an acceleration of the energy transition is louder than ever.

And especially now, it appears that we are also very good at doing stupid things at the right moment. Offsetting the sky-high energy bill by reducing energy taxes is a case in point. Offering compensation mainly to low-income groups would have been fine, because that is in fact essential, but it should not be done via the energy bill. Because that takes away the incentive to accelerate the energy transition. At exactly the time when many people are starting to grasp the urgency of the issue and want to accelerate.

I understand and accept that a lot of the time we all just muddle along. You can’t always be doing the right thing. I, too, buy too many new pairs of shoes and stay under the shower longer than necessary. But that is not the issue. The issue is that we need to make the right choice or give the right example at the right time.

This, more than ever, is the time to make the right choices. Governments could, for instance, stimulate energy saving through setting the right policy. And the public could, for instance, cut back on car usage or set their thermostats one degree lower.

But alas. When setting their income policy, governments forget about the energy transition and climate ministers take the plane to Paris. Everyone just muddles along. And that benefits no one at all.

This is a translation of Hans Stegeman's column in Het Financieele Dagblad, published March 15th, 2022.

Also read Hans' previous column 'The most awful awfulness'