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October 12, 2008 / Mridul

Europe Sabotaging Its Own Fight Against Climate Change

Grappled by the current economic crisis the European countries are looking to water down the proposals of an emissions reduction legislation. Several groups consisting of numerous member nations are up in arms against various sections of the proposed plan. East European nations, for the fear of Russian muscle flexing, have completely rejected the plan; Britain, Italy and few others are opposed to renewable energy targets and Germany  and France are demanding that panelties against non complianent automakers be reduced as the industry reels in turmoil.

Europe, which was seen as the leader in the fight against climate change, is now fighting a war against its own in an attempt to set precedent for rest of the world and hopefully inspire developing countries to inititate their own plans to cut emissions. 

EU is now opposed to increasing the emissions reduction goal to 30 percent (from 20 percent) if Kyoto-type international treaty is signed next year. It is safe to assume that Europe’s 20 percent reduction till 2020 would cover up any deal brokered at the international stage but what about Europe’s credibility as the leader in fight against climate change. For several reasons Europe needs to stay ahead of the world as far as reducing emissions and moving towards renewable energy is concerned. 

  • Europe has demonstrated great resolve and will to press forward with tough environmental goals and standards, that is the reason it is viewed as the leader. 
  • Europe finds itself at the forefront in the geopolitical clash of the West and Russia. Russia has demonstrated that it would not hesitate in using energy as a tool to sabotage the energy supply to Europe. Therefore, energy independence become essential.
  • Since the United States has so far refused to be a part of any binding emissions reduction scheme the onus falls on Europe, as a developed economy, to lead by example and pressurize the developing economies to do more to reduce their carbon emissions. 
But instead of using the economic crisis as an opportunity to cut back spending on fossil fuels & thereby moving towards renewable energy, the European leaders are actually putting loopholes in the legislation which would allow even more widespread use of coal and nuclear fuels to generate power. Even more disturbing is the proposal that would allow EU countries to forgo any real emissions reductions. EU wants an entirely new proposal according to which member nations would be able to claim emission reductions in developing countries as their own by financing clean energy programs. 
Instead of moving towards clean energy the loopholes-filled new legislation would take Europe back to the dirty fossil fuels and the unsafe nuclear energy

It also wants a change in the auctioning of pollution allowances for power companies, which could lead to windfall profits estimated at up to €15 billion.

Last night environmental groups said the moves could allow countries such as Britain to build a new generation of coal power stations without fear of exceeding their legally binding emission targets.

WWF echoed the concerns about what this new proposal would mean for the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The proposal would not only undermine Europe’s credibility to reduce its carbon emissions but would also give teeth to developing countries’ argument that they wouldn’t commit to any emissions reductions until the developed economies do the same. 

“We are on the verge of losing an ambitious climate package. It sends the wrong signal to developing countries — it appears that developed countries are not willing to adopt domestic emission reduction targets,” said a WWF spokeswoman.

It is very unfortunate to see Europe being succumbed to a global predicament that the global credit crunch is. What required is a plan that would not only help achieve ambitious emissions reduction goals but also add value to the dwindling assets. A well coordinated effort is required so that energy and resurgence of economic growth are tied together so that both these problems are solved simultaneously because the world cannot afford to overlook one to solve the other. 



Leave a Comment
  1. preplan / Oct 17 2008 11:19 pm

    We need to remember that all politicians are quite myopic and shortsighted. Their concerns are quite valid in that carbon emission standards and renewable energy production goals are burdensome, but the impact of ignored climate change will make such burdens trivial in comparison. Additionally, ignoring the impact of energy shortages will eventually plunge the entire world into a great depression if the current financial mess doesn’t do that first.

    Should Russia and the West get into some dispute that cuts off oil to Europe; should terrorists succeed in disrutping the flow of oil from the Middle East; should natural disaster wipe out even one refinery in Europe or the U.S.; the ripple effects around the world will make such burdens seem minor. The frailty and the insantity of the financial markets are now plainly eveident and the current disaster could have been entirely avoided; yet doing nothing was so much easier and seemingly less expensive; yet we know better now. The same sort of shortsightedness has been evident regarding energy for the past 35 years and it seems that we are easily diverted.

    Europe was on the right path with their immense move toward reneable energy, yet I believe their feed-in tarrifs and Eco-Taxes were an overly expensive means to that end. As I have pointed out before, the PRE-Plan discussed on my blog and my web site provides a means of funding the transition and it doesn’t need to cost the government anything and doesn’t have to constrain businesses. Reduced carbon emissions simply go hand-in-hand with renewable energy so it’s a win-win scenario. This plan is just what you call for in your closing paragraph.

  2. Mridul Chadha / Oct 18 2008 9:05 am

    Thanks for the comment.

    I completely agree with that. Politicians cannot be trusted when it comes to effective climate policy. We need an immediate transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and although leaders around the world have echoed the concern on several occasions no satisfactory initiative has been taken.

    I also agree with your point that despite having the right intentions the Europe messed up its fight against climate change. Feed-in tariffs are complicated, i think your plan (investment in renewable energy) is the best approach.

    Investment in renewable energy would not only reduce the carbon emissions but also lead to energy independence, recovery of the battered economies and attract people towards renewable energy. So, as you rightly said, it really is a win-win situation.

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