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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Carbon tax - dream or nightmare, 2010

Today:
  1. EU carbon tax proposal delayed
  2. Commission proposes phasing out coal subsidies
  3. EU sees solar power imported from Sahara in five years
  4. Oil nations block switch to 1.5°C climate goal
  5. EU agrees on carbon permit auction rules from 2013
  6. Debate on CO2 target exposes rift among EU businesses 
Quote of the day: The actual point is that we must change our perception of resources. For the moment, the air is considered to be free. But it is not. This might sound scary or confusing in the beginning, but think about it like this. Is the water free?

    EU carbon tax proposal delayed

    25 June 2010
    Proposals for a European carbon tax have been kicked into the long grass following a debate between EU commissioners, who face divisions between member states whilst the effects of the financial crisis are still being felt.
    A suggested tax of 20 euros per tonne of C02 contained in fuels had been made by Taxation and Customs Union Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta at a 23 June meeting of the 27 EU commissioners in Brussels.
    But it has now been put back indefinitely after Šemeta was asked to investigate the economic impact of the tax.
    The commissioners agreed that an updated impact assessment taking into account the economic downturn is required before going any further.
    If proposed, the revision of the Energy Taxation Directive would be a means of shifting taxation from labour to carbon in order to raise state revenue during a time of low consumer demand, with several member states currently surpassing the budget deficit rules.
    Without a specific deadline being set for the Commission's impact assessment on the tax, the issue has effectively been put on 'stand-by' until the effects of the financial crisis subside.
    sourceMy comment: I don't think that imposing CO2 tax only to fill in the coffins is a good motivation. Because this shifts the problem - from environmental to financial. When this is not the point. The actual point is that we must change our perception of resources. For the moment, the air is considered to be free. But it is not. This might sound scary or confusing in the beginning, but think about it like this. Is the water free? In principle it is. If you find water somewhere in the wood, you can drink it or do whatever you see fit with it and nobody will come and charge you about it. When the water comes to your home or office, however, it is a service and you pay for it. It's the same with air in general and CO2 in particular. Here the problem is not how much you can take, because there is plenty of air for the moment. The problem is how much you can pollute in the form of hard pollution and greenhouse gases exhaust. It's simple mathematics. When something becomes limited, you pay for it. Air is still unlimited, but CO2 levels go higher and higher and that cannot go forever. Thus, big consumers should pay. For me, this is the clear philosophy. In principle, everything is free, but the more limited it is, the more precious and price-ious it becomes. And thus trying to introduce carbon tax only for the money is wrong. There isn't vision. There isn't a goal! And politics should be about goals. Finding money is very cheap goal. It will easier to find the money if you tax prostitution and drugs.

    Commission proposes phasing out coal subsidies

     22 July 2010
    Europe's unprofitable coal mines will have to be shut down within the next four years before state subsidies are halted, the European Commission said yesterday (20 July).
    The EU executive presented a proposal for a new regulation that would allow member states to grant operating aid to coal mines only if they present plans to close by 15 October 2014.
    The subsidies would have to be gradually reduced by at least 33% every 15 months and paid back to the state in case the mine fails to close on time.
    The new regulation is to set up a transition regime as the current coal regulation expires at the end of the year. The new rules would allow the hard coal industry to receive closure aid but they would no longer be granted aid for investment or accessing coal reserves.
    The aim of the regulation is to bring to an end decades of repeatedly extended subsidy schemes to maintain uncompetitive mines, instead directing state aid towards paying for the social and environmental consequences of closures.
    Member states would have to complement any decision to grant closure aid with a series of measures to compensate for the negative environmental impact of aid to coal, for instance in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy or carbon capture and storage. source
     My comment: Coal are very painful question. Mostly because a big percentage of Europe use them for heating and electricity. What articles usually fail to mention is that not only Central Europe use them, but also UK. Which can easily explain why coal mines get all kinds of aid and they never close. For me, this is also a question of vision and will. I don't mind coal, the problem is that we relied on fossil fuels for heating for so long. It's time to change. And we have that opportunity now. More and more countries install nuclear or renewable powers. All it takes is one clear decision on coal and they'll be in history. And once we stop burning them, who knows what kind of cool uses we can find for them. Because look at oil - we use it in almost every stuff we have! And it's fossil, just like coal. So maybe by closing that door, we will open another. All we need is one decision.

    EU sees solar power imported from Sahara in five years 

    23 June 2010
    Europe will import its first solar-generated electricity from North Africa within the next five years, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in an interview on Sunday.
    The European Union is backing projects to turn the plentiful sunlight in the Sahara desert into electricity for power-hungry Europe, a scheme it hopes will help meet its target of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources in 2020.
    He said those initial volumes would come from small pilot projects, but the amount of electricity would go up into the thousands of megawatts as projects including the €400 billion Desertec solar scheme come on stream.
    The EU is backing the construction of new electricity cables, known as interconnectors, under the Mediterranean Sea to carry this renewable energy from North Africa to Europe.Some environmental groups have warned these cables could be used instead to import non-renewable electricity from coal- and gas-fired power stations in north Africa.
    He said he believed it was technologically possible to monitor electricity imports to the EU and establish if they come from renewable sources or fossil fuels. The Desertec consortium includes major firms such as Siemens, RWE and Deutsche Bank. They are expected to seek public money for the project.
    Oettinger said the EU's assistance was likely to include help coordinating stakeholders, updating regulations to allow the imported electricity to move across European borders, and financing feasibility studies.
    On the prospect of EU subsidies, or the European Commission permitting state aid to firms involved in the project, he said that would become clear once the consortium has presented a detailed business plan.
    sourceMy comment: I'm not quite sure how much I support this project. From one side, it's great to have all that electricity coming from renewables. From the other side, it really pose the question of how they will guarantee it's from renewables and how the EU will subsidize local African government and with what consequences. Because admit it, Africa is not the safest place to hide - it's pretty turbulent. How the EU can guarantee stability? Could this be done without interfering with sovereignty of countries? I doubt it. And this question is very important, because Europe has exploited Africa for so long. We should stop that and we have to start the fair trade!
    Not to mention the environmental impact on the desert. The desert is not empty, it's unique biosphere and this should be kept in mind too. I'm not saying not to do anything on it, just to make it moderately and carefully.

    Oil nations block switch to 1.5°C climate goal

    11 June 2010
    Two weeks of climate talks in Bonn saw developing countries launch a new push to agree on stricter targets for halting global warming, only for the deal to be killed by Saudi Arabia. The blow came as new data showed that loopholes in pledges would allow rich countries to increase their emissions.  
    Support for a 1.5°C target was on the rise in Bonn, where developing countries demanded a scientific review as the basis of increased climate ambition.
    In Bonn, a group of developing countries therefore asked the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to compile an assessment of the latest science to expose any potential gaps that need further evaluation.
    However, the attempt to go ahead with the review was blocked by Saudi Arabia, with the support of fellow OPEC nations. Among their reasons for opposing the review were claims that there is not enough peer-reviewed literature out there for the process to uncover scientific gaps. After two days of heated debate, the discussion was eventually referred to the Cancún climate conference in December.
    Adding further fuel to concerns were new reports that loopholes in emissions reduction pledges made so far could in fact allow developed countries to increase their emissions.
    Climate campaigners warned that new rules in the making on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) would seek to exaggerate actual emission reductions. source
    My comment: This one is old, but the role of Saudi Arabia just cannot be ignored and forgotten. So, first they want us to pay for the oil we don't use (google it), now they stop any progress citing lack of peer-reviewed literature?! Well, pay experts to create peer-reviewed literature then! What I want to say is that if you hire enough experts and tell them to research the issue, they will eventually publish their results and if they are good, they will be peer-reviewed. That's the normal process. But if scientists are not hired on projects, they cannot publish. It's absurd how arrogant Saudi Arabia is getting.

    EU agrees on carbon permit auction rules from 2013

    16 July 2010
    European Union governments on Wednesday unanimously agreed detailed rules for auctioning carbon permits in the third phase of the bloc's emissions trading scheme from 2013, the European Commission said yesterday (14 July).
    The draft rules will see the creation of a central platform to sell the majority of EU carbon permits from 2013, but also allows countries to opt out and hold their own auctions.
    Neither the number of permits nor the auction dates have yet been determined, though the details of individual auctions will be published almost a year in advance, the Commission said.
    The rules also cover the aviation sector, which will have to buy 15% of its permits at auction when it joins the EU scheme from 2012.The Commission will now submit the draft regulation to the European Parliament and the Council for a three-month scrutiny period.
    In the $100 billion trading scheme's first two phases (2005-2012), most permits were given to industry for free, but starting in phase three (2013-2020) the majority will be sold to firms through auctions, the details of which have been delayed for months due to disagreement amongst member states.
    Britain and Germany, which currently auction a portion of their permits to industry, were among at least four nations calling for the opt-out clause. source
    My comment: More (EU sets 2013 cap under emissions trading scheme). I don't completely get it how you can have both centralised and local trading of allowances, but I guess in the EU they found a way. My personal opinion is that this compromise is stupid and will lead to fraud.

    Debate on CO2 target exposes rift among EU businesses

    20 October 2010
    Environment ministers yesterday (14 October) postponed a decision on whether the EU should raise its 2020 emissions reduction target, in a debate that brought to the surface a division between businesses.
    Meeting in Luxembourg, the 27 EU environment ministers requested the European Commission to present further analyses of the consequences for individual member states of moving beyond the EU's existing 20% CO2 reduction goal for 2020.
    The debate surrounding upgrading the European Union's target has divided EU member states, as some say that 20% simply represents business as usual as emissions have already fallen by 17% in the downturn. Meanwhile, others say higher goals are a liability in terms of competitiveness unless other major economies adopt similar targets.Maybe more surprising is that the same contrast is now evident among businesses as well.
    But at the same time, 29 major companies issued a joint declaration urging the EU to up its target on emissions cuts to 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, sparking comments that BusinessEurope should not speak for the whole business community when it comes to environmental matters.
    The businesses, including BNP Paribas, GE Energy, Marks and Spencer, Nike and Vodafone argued that a higher emissions reduction target would not only bring the benefits of lower emissions but also "spur innovation and investment thus creating millions of new jobs in a low carbon economy".source
    My comment: Haha. Fuuun! Really, I find this very very good change in the public attitude towards the reduction goal. After all, we already decrease those emissions, why not at least put something challenging ahead of us. And as the business very rightfully pointed, this will really spur innovation.

    EU orders industrial tuna fishing ban until year's end (10 June 2010) - In the wake of huge depletion in stocks of bluefin tuna, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki decided yesterday (9 June) to ban large-scale bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic. The ban has already come into effect. -
    MEPs want curbs on illegal e-waste shipments - The EU needs to increase checks on electronic waste exports to avoid illegal dumping and stop the shipment of valuable and sometimes rare raw materials outside the bloc, MEPs in the European Parliament's environment committee said, voting to update EU rules on the disposal of waste electronic equipment yesterday (22 June). -

    Chinese firms cashing in on EU carbon trade - European industries are subsidising direct competitors in China and India by buying international credits to offset their carbon dioxide emissions, an NGO said in a new report.
    EU companies spent around €860 million last year buying 78 million international offset credits (CERs) in order to meet their emission caps under the EU's cap-and-trade scheme.
    The credits, issued under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), are designed to allow companies to meet their targets more cost-effectively by financing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

    Parliament approves Industrial Emissions Directive - The European Parliament yesterday (7 July) endorsed a new directive strengthening pollution limits that industrial installations will have to comply with.
    The new law sets stricter limits on the pollutants that industrial installations are allowed to spew into the air, water and soil. It limits atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and dust, which are responsible for acid rain and smog and cause respiratory diseases like asthma.
    Installations will have until 2016 to comply with the stricter limits. The measurement stick is the implementation of "best available techniques" (BATs), or the most effective technologies that can provide high levels of environmental protection while balancing cost and benefit.
    Member states will, however, be able to deviate from the standard for certain technical reasons or local circumstances if they can prove that the costs of implementing the standards would be disproportionate compared to environmental benefits. - this is not very categoric but I guess it's best we have for the moment.

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