TCS Daily

Europe In Heat

By Hans H.J. Labohm - January 18, 2006 12:00 AM

Last week the European Commission gave some official guidance to member states drawing up national plans for allocating carbon dioxide emission allowances for 2008-2012 under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). According to the Commission this second trading period is significant because it coincides with the five-year time frame in which the EU and member states must meet their targets for limiting or reducing emissions of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. Member states need to ensure that their emissions strategies, in which allocations under the ETS are an important element, achieve their targets.

The Commission move is a baffling follow-up to the outcome of last July's G-8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, and last December's UN Climate Conference in Montreal. In Gleneagles world leaders failed to reach agreement on a follow-up to Kyoto after 2012. This was surprising, because many months earlier, host Tony Blair had announced that this would be one of the major issues at the summit as far as he was concerned. Some time later, however, he told an audience in New York that he had cooled on Kyoto. Nor was there worldwide support in Montreal for a follow-up, beyond 2012, of the Kyoto approach favored by Europe, which is one of binding caps on carbon dioxide emissions in conjunction with tradable emission rights. As a matter of fact, Europe remained isolated on the issue.

One can only wonder whether, and if so how, European policy planners in Brussels assessed the outcome of these meetings. Apparently the political implications of the decisions which have been taken there -- including approval of the Gleneagles outcome by Blair, Jacques Chirac and Silvio Berlusconi -- have escaped them. Otherwise they would have refrained from issuing their new Communication on the next phase of the Emission Trading Scheme.

Does anybody still remember the initial purpose of Europe's climate policy? The European endorsement of Kyoto has always been presented as a tiny first step on the road to a more comprehensive regime, which ultimately would have to include all countries of the world. By adopting Kyoto, Europe was setting an example, heralding a new era of sustainable development. It was supposed to lure other countries into acceptance of similar obligations, which, in Europe's view, were inescapable. But Gleneagles and Montreal have shattered this prospect.

Why does the effort to reverse global warming continue to receive such broad support? Because it offers something for everyone. The Left likes the government intervention it promises. Politicians want to look like they're saving the earth. Scientists want to win the Nobel Prize. International bureaucracies, like the UN, want to remain relevant. Business leaders want to appear green (and protect whatever investments they've made in "renewable" technology, using government subsidies).

By issuing their latest communication on pushing the climate-change fight forward, it's clear that EU leaders continue to ignore the objectives of the Lisbon strategy, which commits them to creating by 2010 the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment. Despite the dismal failure to achieve the goals of the Lisbon Strategy to date, European leaders have not abandoned them. Instead, they have reaffirmed them time and again. What they stubbornly fail to recognize is that Lisbon and Kyoto are at cross-purposes.

By throwing billions of Euro down the drain in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, Europe will send its economy into a tailspin for no environmental benefit at all. It is an act of political symbolism, which can only be explained, if at all, in terms of penance to obtain redemption for the sin of affluence.

As the well-known British climate skeptic, Philip Stott, has observed: "When will we acknowledge that climate is the most complex, coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, which is incapable of being managed predictably by fiddling about at the margins with any one or two (politically?) selected variables? This remains the great self-delusion at the heart of the 'global warming' myth, especially in Europe."

Europe's climate policy seems to have become impervious to rational decision-making. It has turned into "Der Fliegende Holländer", ("The Flying Dutchman"), a ghost ship, doomed to wander the ocean forever, without destination.

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