Friday, February 27, 2015

Europe Lays Out Vision for Climate Change -The European Union will reform its cap-and-trade system to restrain CO2 pollution

While American lawmakers have succumbed, yet again, to a preoccupation with the debate over whether a pipeline should be built through the U.S. to help Canadian tar sands miners reach intercontinental oil markets, European officials have been spending the week knuckling down on climate action.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament’s environment committee agreed on a plan to shore up the continent’s flagshipcap-and-trade program, which has been ailing for years. Coincidentally, one day later, the European Commission outlined its vision for how Europe and the rest of the world should work together under a new U.N. pact to spare the planet the worst effects of climate change.
The European Union’s executive body sent a memo to EU lawmakers and heads of state Wednesday, outlining what it called a “blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020.” It was drafted to help the EU prepare for U.N. climate negotiations ahead of a key round of talks in Paris in December, when a post-2020 global agreement is due to be finalized.
The memo says the “Paris Protocol must” secure commitments from world governments to “ambitious reductions” of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent below 2010 levels in 2050, by “setting out clear, specific, ambitious and fair legally binding mitigation commitments” that ensure global warming is kept to less than 2°C (3.6°F).
European heads of state have already committed to reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that their states collectively produce each year by 40 percent between 1990 and 2030. The newly-stated 60 percent goal, from 2010 to 2050, hasn’t received their formal blessing
It’s unclear whether climate negotiators from other countries would commit to the 60 percent reduction goal in Paris, though it’s among options for a new long-term climate goal that are being considered. So far, the U.S. and China, the world’s biggest climate polluters, have only stated what they’re willing to commit to do under the next agreement until 2025 or 2030.
Europe’s carbon pollution-pricing program, which is the biggest in the world, was formed to help curb greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere—but it was created before its economy unexpectedly tanked. When the economy crashed in 2008, demand for energy fell with it, and that has meant that European industry has needed fewer carbon pollution allowances to operate under a business-as-usual scenario than had been anticipated. The glut of allowances that has resulted is keeping allowance prices and revenue low, and it is limiting the effects of the emissions trading system on global pollution levels.
Some of the carbon allowances that were planned to be auctioned off in the coming years will be withheld from the market, perhaps temporarily, beginning in 2018. Parliamentarians in the environment committee haggled Tuesday over the details of how many allowances would be withheld, and when, before settling on a compromise.
Thomson Reuters Point Carbon analysis suggests that the reforms will lead to an annual cap-and-trade revenue of about $15 billion in 2020—representing a steady growth of revenue that EU member states have so far been reinvesting heavily in clean energy and climate initiatives. Without the reforms, the analysis projected revenue in 2020 of about $9 billion.

Perhaps more importantly, the emissions trading system is now forecast to prevent 61 million tons of carbon dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere in 2020. That’s up from a projected 12 million tons in the absence of reforms.

Climate Central
February 25, 2015.

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