TCS Daily

Kyoto Triggers Palacio Revolution in the EU

By Hans H.J. Labohm - December 18, 2003 12:00 AM

About a week ago I was quarrelling with the Dutch Assistant Secretary for Environment and Climate Issues on the Netherlands TV. On the basis of a report published last month by the European Environment Agency, I argued that almost all 15 EU nations were falling behind their CO2 emission targets. He replied that I was wrong: he was confident that the targets would be met. Moreover, I argued that Kyoto was dead because Russia would not ratify, so that there would be too few countries for the Treaty to enter into force. He retorted that I was wrong again: he was sure that Russia would eventually join. Finally, I said that if Europe would be the only party to comply with Kyoto it would damage its worldwide competitiveness. Again the Assistant Secretary begged to disagree with me by pointing out that this issue was currently addressed in the WTO.

Funny! Less than one week later, on 16 December, the Moscow Times reported that Europe is abandoning the sinking Kyoto Protocol because EU Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio told national energy ministers meeting in Brussels that it would be "suicide" for the 15-nation bloc to follow the Kyoto treaty if Russia, whose support is crucial to the treaty, does not come on board. "The time has come for us to face to reality," de Palacio said. "We can't go on pretending that everything is fine when it's not." Following the remarks of de Palacio EU ministers expressed concerns that Europe could be harmed if it pushes ahead without major trading partners. "We could hurt our competitiveness" if only European companies are subject to Kyoto's constraints, said Antonio Marzano, Italy's industry minister.


These remarks contrast to Europe's official position. Only last week, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom told a UN conference that Europe would continue to lead the world in fighting climate change.


Would it be too far-fetched to presume that very soon one issue will be removed from the list of mutual Transatlantic grievances and that Europe should, after all, be grateful to the common sense which the US and Russia have displayed on Kyoto?


All is well that ends well.


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