Azara Blog: European Union missing its emission targets

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Date published: 2005/11/29

The BBC says:

The European Union is likely to miss its greenhouse gas targets by a wide margin, according to an official assessment of the Union's environment.

The European Environment Agency says that the 15 longest-standing members of the EU are likely to cut emissions to just 2.5% below 1990 levels.

This falls well short of their target 8% cut.

Growth in the transport sector is partly to blame, with increased air travel offsetting gains made elsewhere.

The European Union is at the heart of the Kyoto process, and is committed to substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

But real performance is poor according to the new report on Europe's environmental health - emissions have in fact been rising since the year 2000.

Improvements in industrial efficiency and reductions in methane emissions from waste tips have given the most dramatic gains.

But elsewhere the story is one of reverses.

Longer car journeys have more than eaten into any gains in engine performance, and ship and airline journeys are also increasing fast.

Let's see. You earn a certain amount of money. You spend it. That uses up a certain amount of energy. For a fixed size of your income, if the cost of energy goes up you use less, if it goes down you use more. For a fixed unit energy cost if the size of the economy grows the amount of energy consumed goes up, if the economy declines the amount goes down. This seems to be exactly what the EEA has somehow just noticed. For a fixed energy use you can cut emissions if you substitute one source (e.g. coal) for another (e.g. gas). This is obviously not happening fast enough to make a big enough difference. (Well, the world does not calculate emissions correctly in any case, since if the EU buys steel from China, the EU does not take the blame for the emissions made producing the steel.) So much for all the political grandstanding by EU politicians on the world stage. But the recent large increases in unit energy cost will eventually have an impact.

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