EU Nations Fail to Comply with Kyoto

Published June 1, 2004

As the European Union (EU) uses World Trade Organization membership as a threat against Russia, evidence is mounting that the EU itself is failing to uphold its end of the Kyoto Protocol bargain.

One of President George W. Bush’s chief objections to the protocol was that it was crafted in such a way as to make U.S. compliance more difficult and economically punitive than EU compliance. For example, the baseline year of 1990 was chosen to pre-date the transition of many European nations from coal to oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, for reasons unrelated to greenhouse gas emissions. The choice of 1990 also punished the U.S. for significantly greater economic and population growth, and therefore significantly more greenhouse gas emissions, than Europe managed during the 1990s.

Despite the crafting of a treaty highly favorable to EU nations, data from Germany, France, England, and many other European nations show the EU itself is not abiding by the treaty it is attempting to foist onto Russia.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 30-nation economic partnership dominated by the EU, reported on April 5 that its member nations are failing to meet their Kyoto emissions targets.

Of particular significance, the British Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) reported on April 13 that stronger than expected economic growth “more characteristic of American society” will prevent the United Kingdom from complying with its Kyoto goals unless drastic changes are made to the British economy.

Claiming “there is no evidence” that England’s “pattern of economic development is making people happier or giving them a better quality of life,” the SDC is calling for a significant tax hike on already expensive British gasoline prices to stunt the economy and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Regardless of whether the British public ultimately accepts higher gasoline prices and economic stagnation as the price of adhering to the Kyoto Protocol, voters in the U.S., Russia, and other nations appear unlikely to down such bitter medicine to address a merely speculative harm.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].