Europe made a major commitment under the Kyoto protocol that U.S. conservatives have been telling us for years they would never achieve. It now seems clear Europeans will meet their commitment under the terms of the protocol. It will become increasingly difficult for those who don’t want a U.S. cap-and-trade system to point to the European Trading System ETS) as an obvious failure.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) reported Friday:
EU greenhouse gas emissions fall for third consecutive year
European Union emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHG) declined for the third consecutive year in 2007, according to the EU’s GHG inventory report compiled by the European Environment Agency. The EU-27’s overall domestic emissions were 9.3 % below 1990 levels, which equalled a drop of 1.2 % or 59 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent compared to 2006. The EU-15 now stands 5 % below its Kyoto Protocol base year levels.
And just two weeks ago, the European Commission reported that a subset of total EU GHG emissions, the carbon dioxide emissions traded in the European Trading System (ETS), dropped sharply in 2008:
Emissions of greenhouse gases from EU businesses participating in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) fell 3.06 % in 2008 compared with a year earlier, according to the information provided by Member State registries. With the 6.5% reduction in emission allowances that the Commission has secured for the second trading period, the EU ETS really started to make a difference to emissions in 2008. Last year marked the beginning of the second trading period of the EU ETS, which runs from 2008 to 2012.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “The 3 per cent reduction was partly due to businesses taking measures to cut their emissions in response to the strong carbon price that prevailed until the economic downturn started. It confirms that the EU has a well functioning trading system, with a robust cap, a clear price signal and a liquid market, which is helping us to cut emissions cost-effectively. This should encourage other countries in their efforts to set up comparable domestic cap-and-trade systems, which we would like to see linked up with the EU ETS to create a stronger international carbon market.”
… Emissions were reduced despite GDP growth in the EU-27 of 0.8% last year. While the economic slowdown was felt strongly in the sectors covered by the EU ETS, the drop in emissions was also due to emission reduction measures undertaken by installations in reaction to the robust carbon price which prevailed for most of 2008 before the onset of the recession.
Yes, because of the global economic collapse, it is difficult to say categorically how much credit the much-maligned ETS deserves. Still, the point of this system is to meet the Kyoto target, and it now seems clear that the EU-15 will meet the target.
And the EU-15 will apparently do so with minimal use of the even more maligned (including by me) international offsets — Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) of Clean Development Mechanism projects (for longer discussion of CERs/CDM, see “Do the 2 billion offsets allowed in Waxman-Markey gut the emissions targets?“). The European Commission noted that
Last year it was possible for the first time for installations to surrender emission credits generated through the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms in order to offset part of their emissions. CERs accounted for 3.9% of all surrenders. 41% of these originated in China, 31% in India, 15% in South Korea and 7% in Brazil, with a further 14 countries of origin accounting for the remaining 5%….
92% of the surrenders were allowances which had been given to installations for free [!] while the remaining 4.1% of surrenders were of allowances either purchased in auctions or free allowances allocated for 2009.
To repeat the bottom line: Europe made a major commitment under the Kyoto protocol that U.S. conservatives have been telling us for years they would never achieve. It now seems clear they will meet their commitment under the terms of the protocol. It will become increasingly difficult for those who don’t want a U.S. cap-and-trade system to point to the European Trading System ETS) as an obvious failure.
Now it is certainly true that the EU target was not incredibly strong, especially given their relatively lower population growth compared to the United States. I fully expect our old friend Roger Pielke, Jr. to weigh in on this point, as he did last year (see “Are Europe’s greenhouse gas cuts real?” and “Population growth and climate: The EU-15 vs. the U.S.“). Of course, we don’t take him too seriously since “Finally, Roger Pielke admits he supports policies that will take us to 5-7°C warming or more” and since he is a fellow at that bastion of bad analysis, TBI (see “Memo to media: Don’t be suckered by bad analyses from The Breakthrough Institute“).
Indeed, the EU-15 started with higher energy taxes, more efficient vehicles, higher electricity prices, and a number of stronger energy efficiency regulations than this country. So they don’t have as much energy and carbon “fat” to shed as we do (see “The United States of Waste“) In any case, it is rather cheeky for any American to criticize Europe on the grounds of not cutting their greenhouse gas emissions enough.
As I’ve said before, I understand why some people in this country seem to glory in any problems Europe has in meeting its target: It somehow implies we should be let off the hook for not ratifying Kyoto and for not embracing any serious domestic action. But I actually consider it rather amazing that the EU has accomplished so much given the sorry state of international climate politics.
After all, inaction by China alone is used by conservatives and businesses in this country as a major justification for opposing all domestic action. Imagine how tough it must be for European leaders when they have to keep pushing climate action in the face of inaction by China and the United States — their two major economic competitors.
It now seems clear the EU-15 will meet its Kyoto target without using a lot of offsets. What they have done and are doing is an impressive achievement that should serve as an inspiration to the world. I will blog shortly on Germany’s remarkable set of actions and future commitments.
Kudos to Europe. Jeers to those who are still trying to diminish what they’ve accomplished.
[Memo to European Environment Agency: If you want anybody to pay attention to what you folks are accomplishing, stop with the Friday press releases.]
- Economy doesn’t trump climate: EU sticks by GHG plan, UK goes for 80% cut.
- Don’t Offset Your CO2 Emissions, Retire Them
- The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme