Europe has set a bold target for itself, reducing its total carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 against 1990 levels. It is an ambitious goal, no doubt, but one that is certainly attainable at the rate the continent is going. Just last year, statistics showed that Europe’s emissions had already fallen by 8 percent. Taken as a good sign, some politicians believe 20 percent reduction is not enough; Europe should cut emissions by 30% by 2020! This new push by the has opened up a new debate, but not everybody is so thrilled.
The current cuts in carbon emissions are a result of the will and ability of Europe’s big energy users to adapt to a new energy paradigm. Plus, the advance of renewable resources has greatly cut emissions from power-generating sources. Technology has improved and lifestyles have changed, making Europe the most environmentally savvy region in the entire world.
However, the question has arisen as to whether or not an additional 10% cut in emissions by 2020 is, in fact, a good idea. The question is not if it is possible, but if it will actually reduce emissions. For example, if the cost of producing goods in Europe rises due to increased environmental restrictions, what is to stop producers from moving their operations elsewhere?
According to Hubert Mandery, director-general of European Chemical Industry Council, pushing for further restrictions can actually do more harm than good for climate change. “Economic impact aside, [it] would create carbon leakage. Europe’s carbon footprint will actually grow, because carbon emissions would come through the back door as imports from high-emission countries. Without a globally binding emissions reduction treaty, expect this to happen. In fact, it has already started.”
There are many industries in Europe which face competition from overseas, threatening their existence should their goods become cost-prohibitive. Plus, many of these companies have adapted to the current emissions goal of 20 percent. Further adapting would cost them in updating old equipment before their time is due and implementing new policies. In the end, employment may suffer and the price of domestic consumer goods may rise.
On the other hand, there are ambitious politicians who insist that tougher carbon restrictions will boost the economy. According to Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner for climate change, “It’s very important that everyone understands that to produce more does not mean you have to emit more. That was 20th century business, this is the 21st-century model.”
Hedegaard has pointed to several European economies which have increased output over the past 20 years while cutting emissions. She points to research which shows that the 30 percent goal is “achievable” and that it will help Europe reach its long term goal of 80-95 percent emissions cut. Some green campaigners have called the current 20 percent target weak, and that not doing it will cause new clean-tech jobs to move to China or California.
It is not such a bad problem for Europe to have. As emissions have increased in practically every country around the world, the continent has the ability to decide if a twenty or thirty percent cut is doable. It is testimony to how far advanced they are in combating climate change. In Europe’s halls of power in Brussels and throughout its capital cities, the debate rages on.
Article by David A Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.