UK CO2 emissions rise faster than EU average despite carbon-trading scheme
By David Charter
May 27, 2008
Britain pumped out more greenhouse gases last year under the EU carbon trading scheme designed to cut emissions, according to figures released in Brussels.
The British increase was 2.2 per cent. There was an overall increase across Europe of 0.68 per cent, or 16million tonnes of CO2. Emissions rose in ten of the EU's 27 countries, including Germany and Spain, despite the scheme's target to cut CO2 by a fifth by 2020.
Ministers argued that the extra 5.4 million tonnes of CO2 produced in Britain could be more than explained by 59 organisations joining the trading scheme, in which polluters are given carbon credits and forced to buy more if they emit beyond their allocation.
They added that when the scheme is revamped next year, there will be tougher controls on the number of credits available. Phil Woolas, the Environment Minister, said that without the new entrants into the scheme, emissions would have gone down by 2.9 million tonnes. “Companies are taking their responsibilities seriously and carbon reduction and trading has become a normal part of their business,” he said.
But environmental campaigners said that the figures, combined with plans for more coal-fired power stations, showed that the carbon-trading scheme was not tough enough to meet reduction targets.
“The only thing that matters is how much CO2 is going into the atmosphere,” said Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace's climate campaign. “It does not sound credible to call the emissions-trading scheme a success when we have seen a proposal for a new coal-fired power station in Kent. It is not sending a strong enough signal to the power companies.”
Stavros Dimas, the EU Environment Commissioner, said that the rise in emissions was below the 2.8 per cent rise in Europe's GDP last year. “Emissions trading is yielding results,” he said. “Studies show that emissions would most likely have been significantly higher without the EU emission trading scheme.”
The biggest rises in tonnage of CO2 in 2007 came in Germany (up 8.99 million tonnes), Spain (up 6.79 million tonnes), Britain (up 5.42 million tonnes) and Czech Republic (up 4.21 million tonnes).
Yesterday a committee of MPs told the Government to go ahead with a system of personal “carbon credits”.
Under the scheme everybody would be given an annual carbon limit. Anyone who wanted to spend more could buy extra credits from low-carbon emitters.
The Environmental Audit Committee said it would be more effective than green taxes and would promote behavioural change. It admitted that there would be strong public opposition but urged the Government to be courageous.