Can the road from Kyoto to Hokkaido lead to success in Copenhagen (The Parliament Magazine)


Eija-Riitta Korhola: Climate matters

Continuing her series on energy and climate, Parliament Magazine editorial board member Eija-Riitta Korhola asks:

Can the road from Kyoto to Hokkaido lead to success in Copenhagen?

Thanks to Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen holds a magical place in our hearts. It continues today as we all refer to The Copenhagen Treaty as if it exists more than a year ahead of the summit aimed at producing it. Today it is little more than a dream, an idea even a fairy tale. Whether this dream could become a reality or nightmare depended so much on the political wisdom shown in the G8 in Hokkaido. Like many, I am sorely disappointed at the lack of short term targets and technological commitments from the worlds richest nations. The South African Environment Minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, commented that the outcome . may appear as a movement forward, we are concerned that it may, in effect, be a regression from what is required to… meeting the challenges of climate change

I have studied and followed the whole process called Kyoto since my student days. Though I was a supporter of this protocol, I very soon could see its limitations and its flaws. USA was condemned for not signing – but maybe they had a point. There were 2 main flaws: Kyoto was based on other unrelated UN protocols a kind of cut-and-paste job that was never going to work for such a complicated challenge. Next, it assumed that whilst the industrialised world was improving its emission releases and energy efficiency, other relevant criteria would remain constant. However, industrial growth in the fast developing parts of the world has wiped out all the emission reductions and energy efficiencies – the recent study in "Nature" magazine reveals that the globe is re-carbonising again due to the surprisingly rapid increased carbon intensity in China and India. This more than anything has changed my thinking.

We, in the EU, like to think we are in the global warming driving seat. Well maybe we were but we are no longer. Simply emission reduction depends on applying the best available technologies everywhere and not just on commitments. Japan and the US have shown the way. Unless we incentivise industry to cut emissions by adoption of best technologies, sustainable reductions in emissions and energy usage will just not happen. I have applied this theory in all my amendments to the Emission Trading Scheme revision as it passes through its Parliamentary stages and I am so delighted to have received co-signature and support from so many colleagues across the political spectrum.

We must allocate free permits based on best performance benchmarking to those industries who adopt the best available technologies to drive down their emissions and reduce their energy consumption. Otherwise the ETS is simply a tax on EU industry and EU jobs. Of course we must reduce emissions in the EU but that means cutting not relocating to a place less environmentally demanding.

With so little happening to prevent global warming and sea level rises, it may be apt that Copenhagen has a mermaid as its symbol.

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