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.