THE United States has frozen its carbon dioxide emissions at a time when signatories of the Kyoto Protocol are conceding that they cannot meet their own targets, according to official figures released last week.
While the American economy grew by 3.5% last year, more than twice the European average, its fossil fuel emissions were up by only 0.1% – with no growth in road pollution and a drop in aircraft emissions.
Its progress came as several members of the European Union (EU) missed the deadline to submit new targets to reduce their carbon footprint with Germany demanding an opt-out for its power stations and Spain and Portugal preparing to abandon their target.
The US Energy Department said last week that rising fuel prices had a profound effect on its economy, encouraging the shift to more efficient technology and seeing a decline in carbon usage, which many European countries would find enviable.
The oil price rises hit the US proportionately harder as its petrol is taxed at a lower rate. Pump prices in the United States jumped 19% to 61cents (35.2p) a litre while UK prices rose by just 3.6% to 89.4p a litre with similar rises across Europe.
Road pollution increases were halted across the US and aircraft CO2 emissions declined. American industry reduced its carbon emissions overall by 3.3% – a trend reflecting the economic shift from manufacturing
Since 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was first signed, the US has now made more progress in reducing its per capita fossil fuel emissions than the UK, France, Spain, Finland, Sweden and Japan – even before its economic growth is considered.
The US is frequently criticised for having the highest CO2 emissions in the world – 19.5 tons per person. This is more than twice the level of Britain, at 9.5 tons a head, which itself is sharply ahead of nuclear-driven France at 6.8 tons a head.
The Bush administration has said this is because the US generates more wealth than any country in the world, and it has instead said carbon emissions should be judged as a function of economic wealth created, not per capita.
Although President George Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, after a bipartisan vote in Congress, America has made substantially more progress than its European counterparts, which are still signed up to reach its targets.
The EU has moved to a new flagship environment policy called the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and all 25 member states were due by the end of last week to have submitted their carbon reduction targets for the period from 2008 to 2012.
Those countries that went public with their plans had low ambitions. The German government said last week it would be able to reduce its carbon emissions by only 1% by 2012 and has said this will not apply to its new power plants.
David Miliband, UK Environment Secretary, acknowledged last week that the government is “off track” in meeting its own target of reducing emissions by 20% under the 1990 baseline set by Kyoto. It has met the 10% target.
Spanish carbon emissions were 48% above the 1990 base in 2004, more then treble the 15% limit of its Kyoto target. Portugal, Greece and Ireland – also Kyoto signatories – all have emissions at least 20% higher
Of the 30 industrialised countries which signed Kyoto, 17 were exceeding their targets at the time the last count was taken, in 2004. Japan pledged itself to a 6% drop in its 1990 emissions levels, yet has so far experienced a 7% rise.
The main US increase was registered from air conditioning, reflecting an economic boom in America’s hotter states. Arizona’s economy grew by an extraordinary 8.7% over the year and Nevada’s by 8.2% – both on a par with the growth rates in India.
Well wishes and intention are not enough to change the world. Legislation without basis in practical reality won't either.
HT: No Parasan