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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Et si on parlait du bilan carbone des délocalisations ?

by Gérard Le Puill

What if We Talk of Offshoring and its Carbon Footprint?

Translated Thursday 30 March 2017, by Gavin Hedin

What if We Talk of Offshoring and its Carbon Footprint?

As the electoral campaign presents the candidates in running for the presidential election, we still allow more wage austerity and less social protection. Fillon and Macron are silent on offshoring production in countries with low labor costs — a way to conceal the disastrous carbon footprint of productive capital waste while low wages allow for companies to still reap more profit.

According to the last note of conjuncture from the INSEE, manufacturing in France fell by1% in 2017. The Institute (INSEE) indicates that production rose in mining, energy, water, transportation equipment, and fuel refining. Otherwise said, this activity affected the highest sectors of greenhouse gas emissions while it diminished from 1.8% to 2.8% in sectors such as textiles and chemicals. The lowest emission at 1.1% in agriculture. The Institute is not looking to measure the impact of offshoring production in these countries with low labor costs in this negative development of production in France, and it is unfortunate. Especially so, as this offshoring raises the global carbon footprint of the products consumers buy. This is what is to happen with the departure of Whirlpool in Amiens, France.

Whirlpool Sacrifices its Amiens Employees

The dryer company, Whirlpool, foresees shutting down its Amiens, France, location in June 2018. This leaves 286 permanent employees and part-time employees to look for work elsewhere. The American company planned to offshore its production to Poland where wages are three times less than in France. As Poland has been a member of the European Union since 2004, it is part of the free trade intra-Community. Its productions enter legally without the enforcement of customs in all countries of the European Union, including France. For the American company, which gained 900 million dollars in benefits in 2016, the relocation in Poland was necessary. The relocation did allow for a considerable increase in profits. That is why Whirlpool sacrifices the employees in Amiens.

Fillon, Macron, and Le Pen Dodge Climate Issues

It is another subject that merits an analysis within this framework of offshoring and relocation. Currently France is in its electoral campaign at the end of which they will elect their President and delegates for the next five years. These elections take place less than two years after the Climate Conference in Paris (COP 21). The adopted text of COP 21 invites the countries of the world to lower their overall greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2050 in order to control Global Warming within a limit of +3.5F, in relation to the preindustrial period at the end of the 19th century. Fillon and Macron, aside from Marine Le Pen, appear to have the greater chance of progressing to the second round of presidential elections, despite their dodging of climate issues.

To cast a Ton of Cement emits 900kg of CO2

Yet the industrial relocations in countries with low labor wage considerably increase the carbon footprint of products and the incident with Poland is very revealing in this respect.

What if We Talk of Offshoring and its Carbon Footprint?

Before transferring the machines that run today in Amiens, it was necessary to build
permises to accommodate them. Moreover, to cast a ton of cement emits 900 kilos of CO2. It is necessary then to move the machines and transport them by truck to reinstall them in Poland. For this new factory, land will also be subtracted from agricultural production. When the Polish factory will produce what was formerly made in Amiens, it will consume electricity from coal-fired power plants. It is essential to know in effect that the European Union emits an average of 300 grams of CO2 per 1kwh of electricity consumed. Poland however is clearly above this average as France only emits 15 grams of CO2 per unit of electric consumption thanks to the combination of nuclear and renewable energy. By closing the Amiens factory, the carbon footprint produced by the factory in Poland will be disastrous when compared to those emitted by the one in Amiens.

The journalist Didier Arnaud indicates in Libération (issue March 9th) that 28% of dryers produced in Poland will be sold in France after being transported 1500 kilometers by truck.

This shipping method thus increases the carbon footprint via this relocated product production. In this regard, certain economists, like Jean Tirole, claim to believe that it is possible to resolve this problem by implementing a carbon tax of 50 euros per ton of CO2.

This tax, of which the price fluctuates by the product’s demand, has existed in the European Union since 2005—without the least effectiveness. Even if it is relatively high, when equal work for pay is three to four times lower in Poland than in France, the company that relocates is increasing pollution more than its profits.

Calling the Candidates

The journalist that I have been for 33 years has also been a factory worker from 1965-1983 with Kléber Tires, a subsidiary of Michelin. I also experienced a factory closure in a Parisian suburb with a production outside the province where the salaries were 35% lower than the average. In 2009, the tire production transferred from Colombes to Toul and in 1983 was transferred to Serbia where the pay was three times lower than in Lorraine. The factory in Toul closed 26 years after Colombes and the carbon footprint of tires produced in Serbia was higher when compared to Toul. I return to this industrial human waste in my next book (1) devoted to climate issues. It will be in stores beginning March 23rd. In Picardy, Continental recently closed a factory for relocating its tire production in Romania and Goodyear to relocate to Poland. Even there, tons of cement must be laid, transferred by machines to produce tires at lower cost but with a disastrous carbon footprint in countries where electrical production is obtained by burning coal (fossil fuels). This situation has continued too long and it is about time to gather men and women to face these climate issues as well as the economic and social issues that destabilize our country and our planet as a whole.

In the Face of Climatic Urgency, We are Pushing Politics by Gérard Le Puill, éditions du Croquant 16 euro


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