Europe and Kyoto

EU Observer writes that the EU member states are losing their grip on climate change targets. I find this good news because it will hopefully result in a more appropriate climate change policy from the European countries once they realize that they themselves cannot keep up with the growth impairing standards set in the Kyoto Protocol.

Whether this highly needed policy change will actually occur is doubtful, however. The UN, through its Bonn-based United Nations Climate Change secretariat released a report last week, warning that the western world is losing its grip on the climate change problem because greenhouse gas emissions in many EU states are rising instead of decreasing.

The EU as a bloc has achieved a reduction of 1.4 per cent in emissions from 1990 to 2003, most of which are reductions from Central and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, as heavily polluting industries stemming from the communist era were shut down when these countries restructured their economies. The EU total reduction is far from the minus 8 per cent target in 2012 that the Europeans have set themselves in the framework of the international Kyoto protocol.

According to the UN report the former communist new member states witnessed sizable reductions as dirty plants closed, with the largest cuts reported in Latvia (-58%) and Lithuania (-66%).

Most of the “older” member states have seen emissions increasing instead of decreasing. Only Germany (-18.2%), France (-1.9%), the UK (-13%), Luxembourg (-16%) and Sweden (-2.3%) managed to cut emissions. Eleven out of the EU-15 have reported emissions going up rather than down since 1990, and six of these have seen huge increases, these are Spain (+41.7%), Portugal (+36.7%), Greece (+25.8%), Ireland (+25.6%), Finland (+21.5%) and Austria (+16.5%). Denmark has also had problems keeping the targets, especially because 1990 was a year in which Denmark imported massive amounts of “green energy” giving an unreasonably low target.

The EU has a “burden sharing agreement” facilitated by an emission rights trading scheme, which sets targets for each member state in order for the bloc as a whole to reach the Kyoto targets. The trading scheme is highly inefficient and under-developed, but at least an attempt at introducing market based solutions to the problems the EU and UN say exist.

The UN and EU are most likely still going to try to adhere to the Kyoto agreements, so the best Europeans can hope for is a change in policy after 2012 when the Kyoto protocol has ceased to exist. Most environmentalists would like to see even stricter targets being set on the western world. They ignore both criticism of the science behind the Kyoto protocol as well as correct and relevant criticism from economists and researchers arguing that, even if global warming is primarily caused by human behaviour, the Kyoto protocol is still too costly and much too inefficient.

Maybe off-topic. However,

Maybe off-topic. However, maybe it's not so difficult to reach Kyoto. Use vegetable oil in stead of mineral. Maybe only car fuel. Start at 10% and increase as production capacity raises. Good for farmers. Reduces oil dependence. Too expensive ? Don't know. Lower fuel tax... Only personal transportation... there are lots of possibilities.
No land ? What % of the land is currently used for agriculture ? And the sea ?
Too technical ? Come on, any diesel can run on oil and any gasoline car can run on alcohol with minor adjustments.

The difficulty with

The difficulty with attempting to surplant petroleum with renewable fuels for the purposes of combustion is that most alternative fuels require a great deal of petroleum to produce which really defeats the purpose of using alternative fuels. Vegetable oil is largely made from corn and current corn production requires modern farming techniques which rely on petroleum. If vegetable oil was used in such a manner it would be imperative to start using GM crops and eliminate farming subsidies (Yes, I'm talking about the Common Agricultural Policy). Farm subsidies would artificially inflate the generally higher costs of alternative fuels.

If you're thinking about organic farming, you're dreaming. Subsistence farming is a terrible way to generate enough biomass to produce fuel.

I'm not sure about Europe but adding alcohol to gasoline is a common practice in the United States. Adding alcohol raises the octane rating of fuel I believe. It does help, but not enough to ease off of the need for petroleum.

I find Kyoto to be untenable. Since the world population continues to grow and that most nations wish for their economies to grow, then more emissions are inevitable unless the use of combustion to generate power is changed to some other mechanism. Seriously, Conrad is deluding himself. How are you going to fit a large economy and larger population with emmissions restrictions from over 10 years ago?

Emissions and the EU

Not much the EU can do about its emissions without closing down more plants. In most of the cases (like cars), technology is stretched to the fullest already. Having spent a couple of months in South-East Asia and having witnessed the rampant pollution by inefficient wrecks they locally call "cars", I would suggest where to start first. And then there is China of course, with its double figure economic growth that is still largely driven by coal.
There is of course one area in which the EU can contribute to Kyoto without straining its economy and that is to revive the nuclear option that has been phased out before by the Greens in Germany and in Belgium. Nuclear energy doesn’t produce any greenhouse gasses, and the EU is mature and politically stable enough to re-embrace this potentially dangerous form of energy.

Nuclear options

There is of course one area in which the EU can contribute to Kyoto without straining its economy and that is to revive the nuclear option

Tony Blair favours the nuclear option for the UK, so we can expect the greens to go into meltdown.

Bob Doney

Greens into meltdown

"Tony Blair favors the nuclear option for the UK, so we can expect the greens to go into meltdown."

Well the election system in the UK (winner takes all) is different from the one in the continental EU, at least in some countries surrounding Belgium. We had the Greens and they had some decision-making momentum a few years ago, as well as in Germany. Belgium had quite a few advantages in nuclear power for historical reasons: its Congo uranium connections. Most of our electrical energy still is nuclear, as well as in France.

I don't know the nuclear electricity percentage in the UK [I'm sure its lower than here, the North Sea oil may have been helpful) but we are losing the edge. Just days ago the only nuclear fuel plant left in Belgium announced its close down. Our electricity plants have been taken over by the French Suez while ago. Belgian politics just lost its grip, and (French) commerce has taken over.

Not bad in itself, free marketwise spoken. But a government that has the ambition to regulate the tiniest details in people's personal lives could as well have had some interest in controlling basic energy needs. After all, uranium demand/supply is not in the same financial bottleneck as oil right now. Yes we will revive nuclear energy, but politics won't have anything to do with it.