Europe to easily beat Kyoto target — looks like the European Trading System has worked after all

CREDIT: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

This Wednesday March 30, 2011 shows the Corus steel plant in IJmuiden, Netherlands. In these days of concern over global warming and carbon emissions, industries are trying to move away from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives. Under Europe's cap-and-trade scheme, less carbon means more cash. But an evaluation shows carbon trading has had only modest success in reducing emissions. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Europe made a major commitment under the Kyoto Protocol that U.S. conservatives have been telling us for years it would never achieve.  In fact, the Europeans are poised to surpass their targets under the terms of the Protocol. It is no longer plausible for those who don’t want a U.S. cap-and-trade system to point to the European Trading System (ETS) as a failure.  Quite the reverse.

A report by the European Environment Agency released today shows that the European Union and all Member States but one [Austria] are on track to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments to limit and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Whereas the Protocol requires that the EU-15 reduce average emissions during 2008-2012 to 8% below 1990 levels, the latest projections indicate that the EU-15 will go further, reaching a total reduction of more than 13 % below the base year.

Looking further ahead, almost three quarters of the EU’s unilateral target to cut emissions to 20 % below 1990 levels by 2020 could be achieved domestically (i.e. without purchase of credits outside the EU).

The report highlights the importance of the EU ETS in helping Member States meet their targets.

That is today’s news release from the European Environment Agency.  The full report is here.  The report notes:

Five EU”‘15 Member States (France, Germany, Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have already achieved average GHG emission levels below their Kyoto target….

The EU ETS is expected to result in important reductions of domestic EU emissions.

The EEA analysis concludes the EU-15 will not need to rely on offsets to meet their Kyoto target and “foresees a variety of factors contributing to the EU-15’s total reduction of more than 13%”:

  • Existing policies and measures for the period 2008-2012 could account for 6.9 percentage points of the total reduction.
  • If Member States implement additional measures as planned, the total reduction could reach 8.5%, although this will largely depend on combined efforts in four main emitting countries (France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom).
  • The use of Kyoto’s flexible mechanisms by governments could contribute an additional 2.2 percentage points reduction.
  • Absorbing carbon dioxide through enhanced carbon sinks (e.g.improved forest management) will contribute with an additional 1 percentage point reduction.
  • Purchase of emission allowances and credits by EU ETS operators is expected to deliver a further 1.4 percentage point reduction.

No doubt some will try to ascribe this success to the global economic collapse, but as E&E News PM (subs. req’d) reported:

The emissions projections should be a sign to the rest of the world, said Andreas Carlgren, the environment minister of Sweden, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.

“E.U. emissions reductions far exceed our commitments,” Carlgren said in a statement. “This is taking place without the full impact of the economic crisis yet being evident in the figures. This shows that considered policies and concrete measures are effective in the fight against climate change.”

In fact, the Kyoto budget period covers 2008 to 2012, so it will extend over a period of significant economic growth, and much higher GDP than in the 1990 base period.  The United States, by comparison, has also been hit by the same global economic downturn, and our emissions remain significantly above 1990 levels.

The EEA also reports the reductions of the broader EU-27:

The EU”‘27 is making good progress towards its 2020 emission reduction target of – 20% and the implementation of planned additional measures is expected to bring domestic emissions down to 14 % below 1990 levels.

EEA 11-09 small

The European Trading System, which “covers large carbon-emitting industries, which represent about 40 % of EU greenhouse gas emissions,” is far from perfect.  That’s why Climate Progress previously discussed a major August report detailing lessons for U.S. climate bill.

But the bottom is clear:  Conservatives and other opponents of the climate bill have been insisting for years the Europeans won’t meet their Kyoto targets and that the ETS was a failure, proof that the U.S. shouldn’t adopt a similar approach.  They were wrong on every count.  The EU-15 will exceed their Kyoto target, and the ETS is helping them do it. An even better designed trading system in this country, such as is found in both the House and Senate climate bills, can help the U.S. reduce its emissions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

25 Responses to Europe to easily beat Kyoto target — looks like the European Trading System has worked after all

  1. Remi says:

    Some critics argue that countries that are shifting manufacturing to China should not count that towards their GHG reductions. True Europe is way ahead of North America, but part of their reduction needs to attributed to a shift in where the pollution occurs.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Remi (1) has an important point.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Disgusting that we are not doing as well!!!

  4. Hmpf says:

    The collapse of the eastern economies in the 90s also helped to make our (i.e. Europe’s) CO2 emissions shrink disproportionately. Germany, for instance, might not have met its target without the collapse of the economy of the former GDR.

  5. jorleh says:

    EU 27 shows too optimistic drop for evaluation just because of the collapse of communism.

    We know, too, that China is taking a lot of our emissions.

    And the economic depression too.

    I suspect that our real emissions are higher than 1990.

  6. JeandeBegles says:

    I am not a specialist of the figures of the ETS, but this report of the EEA is in great opposition with a lot of commonly accepted facts.
    The main source of CO2 reduction in EU come from:
    .initial high figures of communist countries , easily cut due to breakdown
    . outsourcing the production abroad (China) and not counting the corresponding emissions (allways counted on the producer behalf, not the consumer)
    . large use of offset par Clean Development Mecanism to get often fake carbon credits (a lot of articles on this topic).
    As a concerned citizen, i can testify that I don’t see any modification toward a low carbon energy: allways more trucks, allways offices full of light, allways more traffic jams, allways no law toward energy savings and renewable. If the citizen cannot see the move, how could you imagine it could happen? Do you think a magician will perform it?
    Cap and trade is clearly not enough, because citizen must be involved in the project of a low carbon society.

  7. Nick Palmer says:

    The points about CO2 from manufacturing being “outsourced” to China are extremely valid. Perhaps a far more effective carbon trading scheme would have hard-wired into it that a country’s/person’s emissions would not solely be those measured at point of use, but those they were actually RESPONSIBLE for because of their purchasing decisions.

    Thus, a nation of people who all had solar powered electric vehicles, this, that and the other, and super-insulated houses etc would still have a heavy CO2 footprint assigned to them if they had a high consumption lifestyle, endlessly buying and replacing designed-to-wear-out-and-be-thrown-away-goods, and eating food, that used other countries’ fuel, water and fertiliser to be manufactured or grown.

    Whaddya think?

    Nick Palmer

    blogspot: “Sustainability and stuff according to Nick Palmer”

  8. Chris Dudley says:

    In the video in this report: Senator Kerry seems to buy into the idea that few will meet their Kyoto commitments. Given Europe’s success, even Canada and Australia may be able to comply through joining the trading scheme, leaving the US alone in non-compliance. The Senate should be more aware of just how far out of the mainstream the US is as a result of failing to ratify Kyoto.

  9. Peter Sinclair says:

    Do we know anything about the price of electricity in EU countries?
    One of the arguments I am hearing is that prices have spiked.

  10. Greg Robie says:

    While political felicitations can be offered for this ‘success,’ relative to the climate modeling science, isn’t it a non sequitur to draw a conclusion that this ‘success’ has much meaning in terms of what needs to happen for the hope pursued? As previous comments point out, too much is being made of too little. Keeping things feeling “positive” may be necessary to pander to some neurologies and, therefore, a valid political strategy, but there is still the demands of the math and physic of climate change to address. ACES/CEJAP doesn’t do the latter. This ‘success’ story concerning Kyoto targets and Europe—and because of ACES/CEJAP—is similarly proof of the “too little” relative to C&T. What matters says it all:

    At best this ‘success’ amounts to riding a bicycle with training wheels and Dad holding on to the back of the seat:

    From the EEA press release:

    The EEA report shows that the reductions in the period 2008–2012 will be achieved through a combination of existing and additional policies, the purchase by governments of credits from emission-reducing projects outside the EU, the trading of emission allowances by participants in the EU emission trading scheme (EU ETS) and forestry activities that absorb carbon from the atmosphere. The trading scheme primarily covers large carbon-emitting industries, which represent about 40 % of EU greenhouse gas emissions.”

    The EEA press release is titled “Non-industrial emissions key for meeting Kyoto targets.” Given the above reference to 40% and industry, isn’t this another way of saying the next 60% has to come out of the yet unsustainable lifestyles of Europeans? If so, how are the aforementioned training wheeled ‘success’ with dear old dad a scientifically relevant metaphor concerning balancing on two wheels? Isn’t the physics of four wheels vs two wheels described by very different math equations? While training wheels can help, psychologically, with learning to get over fears and develop trust the balance needed to ride a two wheeled bicycle, here in the US we have avoided this. With our SUV mindset we felt superior to needing to ride a bicycle; to live sustainably; to even try to do so.

    Anyway, scientifically and mathematically it is too late for the politically pragmatic non-solution of C&T training wheels. ACES/CEJAP is too little to late on many counts (and this assumes that what industry and Wall Street have written as this scientifically inadequate legislation becomes law). While being ‘positive” and nurturing hope is important, especially when the goal is helping a child to change and overcome fears. Being truthful is also required—if the goal is to have a child grow up and live responsibly: dump the metaphorical SUV lifestyle and learn the balance of bicycle riding.

  11. Keith says:

    US media will bury this news…if it’s reported at all.

  12. russ says:

    @8 Peter Sinclair – German power cost is about 60 US cents

    @9 Kieth – As they should with made up stories such as this. I am amazed at the love of the environmentalists for anything European. Nothing can be too outlandish to be believed.

    Nos 1 & 4 have strong points

  13. Stefan Min says:

    Electricity in Switzerland goes for about 20 cents US per kWh, in Germany for about 30 cents US per kWh for household customers, industry rates are much lower.

  14. Keith: We covered it at Cleantechnica

    But you are right. The US media covers this up and all the other reports (like the German Marshall Fund Study that also show that legislation works to get EU off fossils and switched onto a renewable energy economy).

    Then they whine when we have to buy our wind turbines and other more advanced renewable tech from Europe.

  15. Stephan – Germany pays consumers above retail rates to produce solar power off the roof – so whatever it costs per kwh they can make money by selling it.

  16. NoWayOut says:

    I see some confusion on Europe and Kyoto.
    Europe-15 signed the Kyoto Protocol as a whole. Then only the “old” 15 members States matters as far as Kyoto is concerned. All but Austria are on track, and Europe as a whole will probably do significantly better.

    As for the east-european countries, they are involved in the 20-20-20 policy, but this is a differnt story.

    Finally, as for the point raised by Remi (comment #1) it’s a good point, indeed; but it is a global problem that can not be dealt with by Europe alone. I expect to see a lot of discussions as this point will be raised in Copenhagen.

    Personally, I think that we cannot simply measure emissions at the consumer level because it would probably result in a strong contraction in consuption. Given that most of the developed world already shifted production to China (and other countries as well) it will be easier to help those countries to have a smooth transition to cleaner technologies.

  17. Hmpf says:

    I’d like to clarify that I didn’t mean to say that the European version of cap and trade had been a failure – just that it’s perhaps not quite as spectacular a success as one might want to believe. Which doesn’t mean that the approach – perhaps somewhat improved based on the European experience – could not be useful.

    >Europe-15 signed the Kyoto Protocol as a whole. Then only the “old” 15 members States matters as far as Kyoto is concerned.

    True. I was looking at the matter mainly from a German perspective. For Germany’s CO2 reductions, the collapse of the eastern German economy was definitely relevant, as the former GDR was already a part of Germany when the Kyoto Protocol was signed.

  18. pete best says:

    Its all gone to China baby. World emissions have only fallen due to the global recession. Is that the real lesson here. Do less, buy less and still be as happy.

    Doubt that one will work though. The world has to change its attitude to wealth, to capatalism, to living and to our aspirations. No chance of that until it too late.

    One really good article in the UK Guardian newspaper about the engineering of climate change states that the UK can never meet its emissions targets, not becausde it does not want to but because it simply does not have the infrastructure to change the energy sources around and it does not have the manufaturing capacity to do it in time.

    It should be infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure as Tony Blair stated about education 12 years ago.

  19. John Burton says:

    To evaluate compliance with Kyoto, we need actual emission data from individual countries, especialy, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

  20. yenna says:

    Re #20, the data are available from the report that is linked to in the text. Just a few clicks away (pdf). From that doc, page 26:
    Germany -21 %, UK -17%, France -5,6%, Italy +7,1%, Spain +54 %. (2007 over 1990).

    Re #19, its a nice idea but unfortunately not true that “World emissions have only fallen due to the global recession”. For that, see . Recent economic contraction has not stopped the growth of world wide CO2 emissions, only slowed it from around 4% p. a. to about 2% p. a. growth rate.

    I. e. we are still on a worse track than the IPCC standard scenarios, even a major economic recession does not change that.

  21. mitchell says:

    Success is not just what you measure, but HOW you measure it. And “creative accounting” seems to be making this look better than it is:

    Also, how far and how fast do you believe that this blip will push the E.U. towards building or buying a new energy infrastructure?

  22. mitchell says:

    Susan – Are you not just ranting at the NYTimes because their “spin” goes counter to your fan blogging?

  23. Ed says:

    Aha, I see more people here are waking up and smelling the coffee. That we have everything from underwear to towboats manufatured in China does contribute the lions share to our decreasing CO2 emissions. The crash of heavy industry in Western Europe (for instance in the Rhein Rhur area in Germany were old steel furnaces are turned into climbing ranges) and especially in the former eastern block states did the rest. And remember foreign production is not counted in those figures and NEITHER is INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT! As a great man once said “There are lies, there are blatant lies and then there are statistics”.

    Greetings, Ed

  24. Larry Gilman says:

    Many people are making the right point here. It cannot be assumed that because Europe announces a strategy for reductions, and reductions then proceed to occur, that the strategy caused the reductions – especially when there are many concrete reasons to think otherwise. One must show causality, not just correlation — and it looks bad for causality here. I can order the Sun to go up and down (at carefully selected times) like the King in _The Little Prince_, and behold, up and down it goes, but beware of jumping to conclusions about my divine powers . . . .