EU to Meet 2020 Climate Targets Thanks to Cheap Carbon Credits
By Paul Brown
Good news that the European Union (EU) will achieve its aim of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 has been tempered by criticism that, for most countries, the target has been too easy and that much more could and should have been done to help combat the threat of global warming.
A combination of the recession and vast quantities of cheap carbon credits available for countries to buy their way out of their obligations has meant that industry has been able to afford to pollute as much as it wants, and governments have made too little political effort to promote energy efficiency and to boost renewables.
The figures on carbon reductions are produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) to keep track of what is happening in the EU and to make sure countries are keeping to their international obligations and EU law.
The agency presents a generally rosy picture on reducing emissions. However, targets to produce 20 percent of energy from renewables and achieve 20 percent energy efficiency gains are not going to be reached so easily, if at all.
The EEA report confirms for the first time that the EU exceeded its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Total emissions in 2012 were 12.2 percent below the 1990 levels—what the report calls an “overachievement of 5.5 percent.”
Cheap Way Out
This was due to the 2008 recession, a switch in electricity production from coal to gas and an increase in renewables. However, for industries and countries that did not reduce emissions enough, there was an easy lifeline to grab: there were 1.8 billion surplus allowances from industry for carbon credits under the EU trading scheme, providing a cheap way for polluters to buy their way out of trouble.
As a result of the same trends continuing, the EEA report suggests that the whole of the expanded EU is going to meet and even exceed its 20 percent reduction target by 2020, with most countries not having to make any further effort.
Since the Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005, the number of countries in the EU has expanded dramatically, while aviation has been included in overall emission targets. Partly as a result of these changes, carbon dioxide emissions have gone down even further, and so the report says that, for the larger EU in 2012, they were already 18 percent below 1990 levels. It concludes that, as a result, the 20 percent target is within reach eight years ahead of schedule.
The report also takes stock of the two other 2020 EU targets—a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency for every country in Europe, and a 20 percent production of energy through renewables. Here, the agency says the picture is more mixed.
Only four of the 28 EU member states—Bulgaria, Denmark, France and Germany—are making good progress in reducing energy consumption and primary energy intensity through “well-balanced policy packages across relevant sectors.” For most member states, the current policies are not sufficiently developed or implemented—partly due to insufficient enforcement.
The worst offenders are Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, which do not yet have policies in place to reach the 20 percent target on energy efficiency by the end of the decade.
The picture on renewable energy is better. The EU has exceeded its target of 10 percent of gross final energy consumption from renewables in 2010 by 3 percent. However, Europe needs to double the use of renewable energy by 2020, compared to the 2005–2011 period, if it is to reach the EU’s legally binding renewable energy target. Six countries are currently well below target—Belgium, France, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK.
In contrast, 14 member states had met or exceeded their 2011 targets and were continuing in the right direction. They are Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Norway, outside the EU, is also doing so.
Non-governmental organizations that keep an eye on the EU and its attempts to combat climate change were not impressed by the EEA report. They say that that while it was good that targets were being reached, it showed that the EU was being unambitious and could have done far more.
“Science tells us that we need to reduce emissions by 95 percent in 2050 to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius,” said Eva Filzmoser, director of Carbon Market Watch. “It’s a travesty that countries spend billions on international offset credits instead of investing in energy efficiency measures and renewable energies on the home front.”
David Holyoake, a legal adviser with ClientEarth’s climate and energy program, said: “The report shows that member states will virtually not need to do anything between now and 2020 to reach some targets. This is a huge missed opportunity for further much-needed emissions reduction, especially in the buildings, agriculture and transport sectors.”
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
By Gudrun Heise
Just as scientists are scoring successes in coronavirus research, new problems are on their way. Fall is with us and winter is around the corner, so the season for colds and flu has begun — joining COVID-19.
Influenza Vaccination<p>A flu vaccination may thus be able to narrow down the diagnostic options when flu-like symptoms occur, but whether such a vaccination also has an influence on the behavior of the dangerous new virus is — like so much else — not clear. "It is conceivable that there is an indirect effect. But it is, I believe, a matter of speculation whether it has an immunological effect in the narrower sense," says Krause.</p><p>Every winter, doctors' waiting rooms are full of people who are coughing and sniffing but who mostly turn out to have only a severe respiratory infection. According to current knowledge, the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is also likely to be subject to seasonal fluctuations. </p><p>In winter, cold viruses, at least, flourish because cold and dry air offers ideal conditions for their spread. In addition, it becomes more difficult to air rooms regularly and intensively — an important further measure to counteract the coronavirus and contain to some extent the danger posed by aerosols.</p><p>According to the <a href="https://www.rki.de/DE/Home/homepage_node.html" target="_blank">Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health agency</a>, between 5% and 20% of people in Germany become infected with flu viruses every year. These viruses are also dangerous and can be fatal. The flu vaccination must be adapted to the influenza viruses every year, because they mutate. But at least there is a vaccination.</p><p>Most experts agree that there is unlikely to be a vaccine against the coronavirus by the time the next wave of influenza comes around. And even if a vaccine were to be approved, many unknowns remain.</p>
COVID-19 and Flu Simultaneously<p>For example, there is a lack of practical experience in dealing simultaneously with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza. It is possible to speculate that having influenza could facilitate the entry of the coronavirus into the human body. "The general weakening of the immune system during an influenza infection could increase the susceptibility of a patient to a SARS-CoV-2 infection," Krause says.</p><p>However, it is uncertain how dangerous this double infection could ultimately be and what can be done about it. Krause is of the opinion that we must arm ourselves against all three diseases — colds, flu and COVID-19. If we have a cold, bed rest, hot tea and cough medicine usually help. We can get vaccinated against flu. But how do we deal with COVID-19?</p><p><span></span>Probably people can only hope that if they get the illness, they will have a mild form with as few after-effects as possible. Here, it will certainly help to stick to suggested rules on hygiene to reduce or prevent our exposure to the virus. In an interview with DW, Bonn-based virology professor Hendrik Streeck made it clear that COVID-19 usually takes a more severe course when there is a high viral load at infection.</p>
Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene<p>The same hygiene measures with which we are trying to get at least some kind of grip on COVID-19 also apply to influenza. The less we come into contact with viruses, the greater the chance that we will be spared an infection or that it will be mild.</p><p>These measures include general hygiene precautions such as frequent hand washing and the wearing of protective face masks. "The various hygienic measures against COVID-19 will also reduce the spread of influenza," says Krause. "Possibly, further connections of a more immunological nature will be discovered."</p><p>Let us hope that is the case, because the flu season hasn't even started.</p>
- Fauci Warns Bad Second Wave of Coronavirus Could Hit U.S. ... ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 170,000 Ahead of Flu Season ... ›
- COVID-19 Makes Getting a Flu Shot More Important Than Ever ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rising temperatures in the air and the water surrounding Greenland are melting its massive ice sheet at a faster rate than anytime in the last 12 millennia, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
- Greenland and Antarctica Already Melting at 'Worst-Case-Scenario ... ›
- Warmer Current Is Carving Away Greenland Ice Sheet From Below ... ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Is Melting at Rate That Surpasses Scientists ... ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Has Reached 'Point of No Return' - EcoWatch ›
- Record Shrinking of Greenland's Ice Sheet Raises Sea Levels ... ›
- Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Creates Huge Waterfalls, Increasing ... ›
A grim new assessment of the world's flora and fungi has found that two-fifths of its species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, as The Guardian reported. That puts the number of species at risk near 140,000.
- Climate Crisis Could Cause a Third of Plant and Animal Species to ... ›
- World Leaders Urged to 'Act Now' to Save Biodiversity - EcoWatch ›
- Bumblebees Face Extinction From the Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Plant Extinction Is Happening 500x Faster Than Before the Industrial ... ›
As human activity transforms the atmosphere, flowers are changing their colors.
- The Best Plants to Attract Pollinators, by Region - EcoWatch ›
- Corals Turn Bright Neon in Last-Ditch Effort to Survive - EcoWatch ›
- Hummingbirds Live in a More Colorful World, Study Confirms ... ›
By Sharon Zhang
Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.