New York Times: Climate Activists Call for Tighter Caps on Emissions
BRUSSELS – Climate advocates on Thursday called for tighter caps on greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union after figures showed that some of the dirtiest industries benefited from a surplus of permits to pollute as a result of the economic slowdown.
The figures from the European Commission showed the largest annual decline in emissions from industries covered by the bloc’s carbon trading program since it began in 2005.
Emissions from factories and power plants covered by the Union’s Emissions Trading System fell by 11.3 percent, according to Emmanuel Fages of Orbeo, a carbon trading unit in Paris part-owned by the French bank Société Générale. Analysts had predicted a somewhat smaller drop, but the price of a permit to emit one ton of CO2 was mostly unchanged at about €13, or $17.57, in afternoon trading on European markets.
The same installations that emitted 1.9 billion tons of CO2 in 2008 emitted 1.7 billion tons in 2009, according to Mr. Fages. The figures were only about 90 percent complete, but Mr. Fages said they were “probably a good proxy” of the final, verified results, expected in May.
Trevor Sikorski, an analyst with Barclays Capital, attributed some of the decline in emissions in the electricity sector to an “increasing move in power towards gas and other forms of low-carbon generation.”
But environmentalists and other analysts said the overall results showed that polluting companies were not facing sufficient pressure from the system to cut emissions in Europe.
“This new information makes it clearer than ever that the Union must increase its climate ambitions,” said Bryony Worthington, the director of Sandbag, a nonprofit organization that campaigns to improve the way carbon trading functions. “Emissions are falling faster than could have been imagined,” she said.
Carbon trading, also known as cap and trade, is supposed to be the Union’s main tool to control greenhouse gases. The system is the world’s biggest greenhouse gas market.
To ensure that the system is effective, countries like Britain and Denmark have called on Europe to tighten its caps. In February, the British Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee called for intervention in the carbon markets to raise prices to encourage investments in cleaner energy.
Intervention in the carbon markets? Because energy prices aren’t high enough. . .