Europe Is Not Amused

In the latest installment of what has become an increasingly sorry drama, the European Union’s Ambassador to the United States, former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, has written to Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). His goal in the February 22 letter is “to put the facts before you,” claiming that “incorrect or incomplete information has been presented about the European Union (EU) climate policy. In particular, this concerns the EU’s achievements to date by comparison to achievements in the US, and whether the EU will meet its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol, which is to reduce its emissions by 8% by 2012.”

[Note: This promise is from 1990 levels, whatever Europe chooses to claim that they were. That is, EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 1990 have oddly been serially revised upward, even 15 years after the fact and recently more than once in one year, such that they have inexplicably discovered emissions equivalent to those of Ireland’s in 1990, thereby lowering the EU’s performance gap; that is, they’ve found a country under the sofa cushions. Call it recovered emissions syndrome.]

Ambassdor Bruton’s complaint, in short, is that not everyone is behaving and bending to EU insistence that all discussion about greenhouse gas emissions be in the context of a 1990 emissions baseline, which affords Europe credit for two political decisions preceding and unrelated to the Kyoto Protocol or any effort to reduce GHGs. As more modern performance comes to light, Europe is facing a serious embarrassment of being outperformed by the U.S. in terms of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the key target carbon dioxide, the target of all proposals floating around Washington.

Specifically, Mr. Bruton’s letter is in response to an assertion by White House spokesman Tony Snow that although “there is a carbon cap system in place in Europe, we are doing a better job of reducing emissions here.” Senate Democrats rushed to Europe’s defense with charts purporting to denigrate the U.S. performance but which, as my colleague Iain Murray noted, merely changed the subject from an accurate assertion while upon scrutiny also affirming it.  

This, and Mr. Bruton’s letter, beg the question of why they must point to 1990 in response to claims about more modern performance, say, since Kyoto was agreed to in 1997, or since 2000. The answer, of course, is that Europe continues to ride two political decisions preceding and unrelated to Kyoto in order to claim greenhouse gas emission reductions: the UK’s “dash-for-gas” in response to serially striking coal miners and the shuttering inefficient East German industrial capacity after reunification.

Regardless, it is nice to see the debate shifted from Europe’s mythical super-performance to how badly they are performing.

In a lapse of protocol, Mr. Bruton chose to single out former Senate Environment Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) by name for noting that “only a few [Note: the number is actually 2 of 15] EU countries are on target to meet their Kyoto obligations and that other EU members will fail to do so,” though Senators Brownback, Enzi, Voinovich, and others spoke on the Senate floor about the European Kyoto mythology the last time the McCain-Lieberman legislation was defeated (even more soundly than the previous time). Mr. Bruton claimed that the conclusion, that “the EU will not meet its Kyoto obligations…is incorrect.” With an important qualification, this is true, though not as the Ambassador then touts, that “The EU is on track to meet its Kyoto commitment.”

To be true, this can only mean it is saving up money to pay the Chinese and some former Soviet-bloc countries for paper indulgences to offset their actual emissions, as is permissible under Kyoto.

“On track” implies that emissions are trending favorably.  Yet here is how Europe presents its emissions:

Let’s be clear: Europe’s GHG emissions are rising, and despite two clever provisions they insisted on in Kyoto were as of 2004, according to Bruton’s letter, only 0.8 percent below 1990 levels (again, so long as one grants them their ever-spiking 1990 level of choice, which Bruton understandably eschews addressing). That is, they are not “on track;” their emissions are up, not down, from when Kyoto was agreed and rising, not falling.

The sole way that Europe can claim “compliance” is through paying other countries to purchase their emissions-not-emitted due to economic collapse, or paying the Chinese to create then destroy the very powerful GHG HFC-23 (12,000 times as powerful as CO2).  This also comes in heavy reliance upon Europe’s then-15 Member States having ditched the 8-percent-below-1990 promise that each of them ratified and submitted, in favor of a collectivized 8-percent promise, or “Burden Sharing [sic] Agreement,” deeply mitigating any actual reductions they would have to undertake due to the favorable 1990 baseline (this collectivization being arranged for under Kyoto’s Article 4, one of two concessions the EU extracted from the U.S. in Kyoto—the other being the 1990 baseline—in return for a cap-and-trade scheme). This is why EU Kyoto guru Christian Egenhofer of the Centre for European Policy Studies says “You could say that the U.S. did a very bad job at negotiating [in Kyoto] while the EU did a good job.”

Finally, when Mr. Bruton gets around to the White House’s specific claim, that U.S. emissions are rising more slowly than Europe’s since 2000, he acknowledges that, “During the period 2000-2004, recently chosen as a reference period by the U.S. Administration, emission in the U.S. grew more slowly than in the EU,” but then proceeds to change the metric to absolute emissions, a standard never agreed to or even proposed in any treaty, ratified or not.

With so much European political—and now economic—capital invested in this struggle over environmental gestures—that is, no proposal under any scenario or set of assumptions would have according to anyone a detectable influence on the climate. This bob-and-weave campaign will, of course, continue. As such, let’s get this straight: Europe can only comply with Kyoto through a dog’s breakfast of: a) coercive policies making energy ever more scarce, but far more than they’ve enacted to date: b) cheating up their baseline; and c) paying other countries for indulgences, or “emission reduction credits,” such wealth transfers affording the EU certificates to approximate reductions as if they had undertaken them…which they demonstrably have not.

Second, of late, the EU is undoubtedly increasing its CO2 emissions far faster than the U.S., either since Kyoto was agreed or since 2000. That Europe not only must continue changing the subject—and that is so desperately wants to, time and again—buttresses the legitimate suspicion that Kyoto is less about emission reductions and climate change as it is about having an anti-U.S., and particularly anti-Bush, totem. When he leaves office, what ever are the poor continentals to do?