Europe set to meet Kyoto Protocol

The grass is greener on the other side, at least in terms of carbon emissions.

After the European Environment Agency reported last week that European Union greenhouse gas emissions have fallen for the third consecutive year , I am wondering what the hell America is doing with all itâÄôs time. The absence of our signature on the Kyoto Protocol has been a thorn in our side since Bush pulled out of the accords in 2001. Well, weâÄôve managed to lose plenty of jobs without joining the fight on global warming and Europe may have just proved that this Kyoto âÄústraitjacket,âÄù as Bush described it, is more like a snuggie âÄî it just takes some getting used to. According to the European Commission, the EU-27âÄôs overall domestic emissions were 9.3 percent below 1990 levels. The EU-27 constitutes all of the member countries of the European Union. EU-15âÄôs âÄî the 15 original countries in the European Union before its 2004 and 2007 expansions âÄî emissions are now 5 percent below its Kyoto Protocol base year levels. Last year, emissions declined even with a 0.8 percent GDP growth for the EU. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas contributed these reductions to businesses taking measures to cut their emissions in response to the strong carbon price present until the economic downturn started. He argues that the EUâÄôs domestic cap-and-trade systems can now serve as a model to create a stronger international carbon market. Still, there are many skeptics. It is true that the EU-15 started with higher energy taxes, more efficient vehicles and firmer energy efficiency regulations. The global economic slowdown likely assisted in their ability to meet Kyoto Protocol. Critics point to EuropeâÄôs low fertility rate as an unseen assistance while others argue that the EUâÄôs influx in immigration now keeps their population rising nearly as quickly as that of the United States. But the fact is that Europe is poised to reach its Kyoto Protocol goals for 2012, while the Bush administration left the United States to sit on its hands. What will the Obama administration do? Well, IâÄôm not finding too much to get excited about in the most recent climate bill working its way through Congress. As the MIT Technology Review reports, the bill is 946 pages long and peppered with loopholes . Most notably, certain industries will be awarded allocations for greenhouse gas emissions based on how much they produce in the first place. These allocations will be updated periodically in conjunction with their output changes. This is a system that makes absolutely no sense because it enables the industries to drive up their emissions so that they can receive a larger allocation to trade on the carbon market in the future. The overall cap for carbons emissions in the United States does not change, but the steel manufactures now have more bargaining power. Other industries that take cuts in emissions allocations because of this will be forced to use more electricity, thus ramping up the cost of everyoneâÄôs electricity. Another loophole was achieved by simply changing the word âÄúsourcesâÄù to âÄúemission points.âÄù The Washington Post explains, âÄúThis tiny bit of editing might one day give petroleum refiners valuable rights to emit carbon dioxide might not have otherwise been allowed.âÄù The exact wording of the addition is too complex to explain in this column, but rest assured, big business has the reins on this one. Given the sorry state of our environmental posture, we should hardly discount EuropeâÄôs impressive Kyoto achievements, regardless if they had a little help from outside factors. As Pascal once noted, âÄúThe least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.âÄù Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]