European Union is back pedalling as regards to cleaning up

by Michael Smith

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 2008: Most of the European Union's promised cuts in greenhouse emissions could be undertaken outside the bloc under a proposal to be considered by law-makers this week.

Warning that climate change risks turning into a catastrophe for humanity, the EU's presidents and prime ministers committed themselves last year to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other substances blamed for global warming by 20 percent below 1990 levels within the following 13 years.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, argued at the time that Europe must transform itself into a low-carbon economy. But rather than requiring the reductions to be achieved within the EU, a more recent proposal would allow its member states to buy 'external credits' so that up to 80 percent of the cuts will be introduced through 'clean development' schemes in poorer countries.

In other words, the burden is going to be placed on countries outside the European Union while the EU member states continues as it. So, at least, it would appear. Now why does that not surprise me in the least? Why not? Because all those governments are doing is talking a lot of hot air and if they would stop doing just that we might, in fact, get some cooling of the planet.

This proposal is to come before the European Parliament's environment committee Oct. 7.

Green campaigners believe that if the committee accepts it and some other efforts to weaken a 'climate and energy package', the EU's reputation as a self-proclaimed champion of the environment will be tarnished.

It will indeed be tarnished, that image, but... did anyone really expect anything else from the European Union. All we are getting is lots of talk and not just on the environment. The same happens as to minority rights while, at the same time, the human rights of the Gypsy People throughout much of the European Union are being trampled under foot and the spectre of Hitler's Germany is raising its ugly head again, as far as the Gypsy People are concerned.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said that the vote will represent the biggest legislative effort to tackle climate change that the world has yet seen. It is vital, according to the organisation, that a bold package is approved so that the European Union will be well-placed to demand that other major polluters take their responsibilities seriously during international climate change talks in Poznan, Poland, this December and in Copenhagen, Denmark, next year. The global discussions are designed to frame a successor to the Kyoto accord, which set reduction targets for the period lasting until 2012.

Unless we are seeing a miracle thought, this is not going to happen, however, and the measures are going to be farmed out to countries of the developing world, the once s-called Third World and/or poorer countries as yet outside the European Union itself. Nice one – NOT!

Delia Villagrasa, a WWF policy advisor, said that the EU should be focused on ensuring that the "vast majority" of its reductions occur within its own territory. "The EU will have to be a leader in the global negotiations if we want to have a global deal," she said. "For the EU to be seen as weakening its climate package really undermines its credibility in international negotiations."

Intense behind-the-scenes talks have been taking place among the Parliament's environment and industry specialists over the past few weeks. Many from the assembly's two largest groupings, the centre-right European People's Party and the centre-left Socialists, have been urging that the measures agreed should not penalise European firms. The Parliament is under pressure to wrap up its deliberations on the climate package speedily. France, the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, is adamant that work on the dossier should be completed by the end of 2008.

Among the most contentious issues being addressed is what rules should apply to the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS), which places an overall limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that companies may release, and then requires them to acquire permits for their emissions.

While green campaigners have insisted that such permits should be sold and that the proceeds used to fight poverty and protect the environment, some companies that consume vast amounts of energy have warned that they would be put at a competitive disadvantage unless they are given their allowances for free.

Makers of chemicals, metal, paper and cement have intimated that they will have to leave Europe for countries with lower environmental standards if the ETS proves too expensive for them. But a new study by the research body Climate Strategies indicates that the risks of relocation are exaggerated, stating that steel companies are unlikely to 'pack up and leave' an area in which they have large capital investments and that factors other than environmental laws are more likely to determine where a firm operates.

Oh, what a surprise, NOT, that the industry has threatened to take the work to countries with lower environmental standards and the governments simply cave in to such blackmail. Maybe blacklisting such companies might be an idea.

We have had similar things happen with industry, such as steel industry, in Germany, when it got too expensive in the Ruhrgebiet and they upped sticks and moved to the former Czechoslovakia and even further East, even with the clever ploy of giving all employees the option to remain with the company and also move to those countries – but then being paid at the salaries that are being paid in those countries. The majority of the employees did not take up that offer and had no other avenue open to them but to resign. Just what the companies wanted; it saved them paying redundancy pay.

Can we really allow industry to rid roughshod like that over everything and to blackmail the governments and in the end us, the people? Methinks not.

Karim Harris from the organisation Climate Action Network Europe said that some industrial lobbyists have resorted to "scaremongering".

"If you look at the reasons why different manufacturers have left Europe in the past, it has not been because of environmental measures," she said. "It has usually to do with cheaper labour."

But Robert Jeekel from Eurometaux, which represents makers of aluminium and other metals, described the scaremongering allegation as "ridiculous".

He predicted that increased costs for industry would prompt aluminium firms to relocate to China, which is expanding its use of coal, one of the most ecologically destructive sources of energy. The net effect would be one of "lose-lose" both for European industry and for the environment, he added.

Meanwhile, France has put forward a new proposal to delay the implementation of new rules on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from cars.

Whereas the average car in the Union now emits 158 grams of CO2 per kilometre, the European Commission has advocated that this should be reduced to 130g/km by 2015. After fierce lobbying from firms that produce heavy vehicles, France has recommended in the past week that the target should be suspended until 2015 in order to give the industry greater time to prepare itself.

Greenpeace reacted angrily to the French plan. "French President (Nicolas) Sarkozy cannot ignore the continuous rise in transport emissions if he wants to help Europe reach its climate targets," said the group's transport specialist Franziska Achterberg. "This deal would be bad news for European consumers and the environment."

The problem with the European Union – in the same way as with the United nations – is that they are but useless talking shops of the governments and also vehicles used to suppress and oppress the people.

If the Union cannot get its finger out collectively then some of the countries should have the marrow to lead in this while at the same time making it impossible for companies simply to up sticks and move elsewhere. Leaving the EU might be a good idea for some countries, such as the United Kingdom.

The EU keeps showing itself to be a useless operation again and again, be this as regards to these environmental issues or those of human rights for the Romani-Gypsy People. A resolution was, for instance, as far as the attack against the Romani by the Italian government is concerned, by the European Parliament, but the resolution, like all other(?), of that parliament, is simply not binding on the government.

So, pray, what is the entire purpose of the EU?

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008