Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kyoto in trouble again

Just as the Russians appear to agree reluctantly and with every appearance of foot dragging, to sign up to Kyoto in order to have the EU’s support for their application to the WTO, news comes that the EU is going through some soul searching on the subject.

The incoming Environment Commissioner, the Greek Stavros Dimas, (one wonders whether the Greeks have quite resolved the atmospheric pollution in Athens) has made what one Green MEP described as “worrying statements” during his interrogation in the European Parliament.

Mr Dimas suggested that not all EU member states will be able to start the emisions trading scheme next January. Just to remind all our readers, the EU is committed to cutting its emissions by 9 per cent by 2012. So far, emissions have been cut by 2.9 per cent and much rides on the so-called emissions trading system.

Of course, if the Russians do not sign the treaty by January, it cannot function. The outgoing Commissioner, has suggested that in the absence of Russia’s name on the dotted line, the EU member states should review their own position on the subject. A number of scientists, as we know, have reviewed their position and agreed that Kyoto will do nothing to help the world’s poorer countries while costing a great deal to the developed ones.

In fact, Loyola de Palacio has already expressed some concern, according to Associated Press, that the treaty
“…could unfairly target key industries such as the steel sector, forcing factories to relocate to other parts of the world where environmental rules are less stringent.”
Well yes. That is why the United States has refused to sign up and why alarm bells have been sounded by economists as well as scientists.

None of this troubles Green politicians in the slightest. Satu Hassi, a Finnish Green MEP was troubled by Mr Dimas’s responses. They showed, apparently, that the incoming Commission was not very concerned with environmental problems. Whether signing up to Kyoto is being concerned with environmental problems remains questionable.

The problem with Green politicians is that they lack a basic understanding of economic and social developments. It is only rich countries whose economy is doing well who can afford to be overtly worried about environmental matters separately from economic ones. While the EU remains fairly rich, its economic woes, caused to a great extent by the over-regulation inspired by environmental lobbies, are becoming pre-eminent in the leaders’ minds. It seems unlikely that Satu Hassi will comprehend this simple equation.

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