I’ve long argued that the European Union’s climate policy is full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing. During the last 20 years, EU officials have been quick to blather about their supposed leadership on climate, based on a putative “success” reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But this has always been a mirage. In fact, EU emissions reductions since its adoption of the Kyoto Protocol have been largely derivative of unintended consequences stemming from three events that have nothing to do with climate mitigation policy. They are: (1) the shutdown of Soviet-bloc heavy industry; (2) the United Kingdom’s “dash to gas”; and (3) the Great Recession.
Meanwhile, EU’s actual climate policies have been ongoing failures. Take the EU’s goal of improving energy efficiency 9% by 2016 and 20% by 2020. Ex-EU bureaucrat whistleblowers recently told EUractiv that EU member states have relied on “tricks and abuses” to create the appearance that they are on track to achieve the targets. In January, the European Court of Auditors published a scathing audit of how EU member states spent almost $6.6 billion in subsidies to achieve the energy efficiency targets. From the press release:
“None of the projects we looked at had a needs assessment or even an analysis of the energy savings potential in relation to investments”, said Harald Wögerbauer, the ECA member responsible for the report, “The Member States were essentially using this money to refurbish public buildings while energy efficiency was, at best, a secondary concern.”
In order to better control the earth’s thermostat, the EU also has implemented a Soviet-style, green energy production quota of 20% by 2020. While member states have spent billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies in order to support the EU’s green energy goals, the EU Commission in late March warned that, “There are reasons for concern about future progress; the transposition of the directive [the green energy production quota] has been slower than wished, also due to the current economic crisis in Europe.” In layman’s terms, this means that a lot of European countries spent a lot of money on expensive, green energy during the boom-time 2000s. But the boom has since gone bust, and these countries are now reducing unsustainable green energy subsidies. Because the green energy industry cannot compete without ever-more generous taxpayer give-aways, EU bureaucrats are justifiably concerned that their green energy production quota won’t be met.
But the EU’s biggest joke of a climate policy—by far—has been the Emissions Trading Scheme, a cap-and-trade. It’s actually failed twice. During its first phase, the over allocation of carbon rationing coupons led to windfall profits for utilities, but no actual emissions reductions, as the carbon price plummeted. This week, during its phase three, the Emissions Trading Scheme collapsed again, and this time, it appears to be down for good. According to an article from yesterday’s EUractiv,
The EU’s flagship scheme for cutting carbon emissions suffered one of the most serious setbacks in its chequered history on Tuesday (16 April), when MEPs voted against a proposal to shore up the price of carbon in the Emissions Trading System (ETS).
The proposed reform – known as “backloading” – aimed to reverse the plummeting price of carbon that has resulted from a surplus of permits in the ETS market. If successful, the reform would have resulted in the postponement of a series of auctions of carbon permits.
But MEPs in Strasbourg voted 334 against the reform, with 315 in favour, leading green campaigners to condemn the defeat as a “monumental failure” to mend the carbon trading market, which is Europe’s flagship climate policy and the biggest in the world. “They have lost all credibility on climate leadership,” said Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist.
EU bureaucrats shouldn’t fret over their climate policy failures, which were inevitable. In a anarchic order of global states defined by self-help, no block of countries could ever sacrifice on behalf the whole, especially if these countries’ sacrifice was expensive, yet would fail to solve the problem at hand. Realism similarly dooms any chance that there could ever be a global regime to fight climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, it would cost $45 trillion through 2050 to implement the climate goals adopted by the United Nations. There is ZERO precedent for burden sharing of that magnitude among the states of the world, save for global warfare. Despite the alarmists’ best efforts, global warming will never be perceived as a clear and present danger on par with world war. The upshot is that there’s a snowball’s chance in hell for a viable climate treaty.
For another, similarly skeptical take of EU’s climate policy, see this post by my colleague Marlo Lewis.