The EU is cheating with numbers — and stealing our future

  • The proposed reductions within the European Union are to be made from a 1990 baseline. As the EU has already — following a very slow emission reduction pace over the past 30 years — reduced its territorial emissions by about 23%, this means that the 55% reduction target announced by the EU commission, in fact is a 55% minus 23% from 1990s levels reduction until 2030. Based on today’s levels, this would mean an approximate reduction of our emissions by 42%. And this obviously translates to a serious reduction in ambition. Moreover, the EU’s reductions since 1990 have — to a large extent — happened due to us exporting our factories to other parts of the world. Let’s look at Sweden as an example, where consumption index numbers are fortunately made public by the authorities. Here the CO2 emissions have been lowered by approximately 27% since 1990. But, if we include the total consumption index (imported goods manufactured outside the country) as well as international aviation and shipping (always excluded in the official international reported numbers) the increase in these three make up for ALL the lowered emissions within the Swedish borders. So in fact Sweden’s emissions have not decreased at all. They have just exported them or hidden them with creative CO2 accounting — a policy used throughout Europe and the entire world. The key thing is: when EU leaders promise emission reductions of 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels’, they need to be honest right from the start, and communicate that this translates to a reduction of only about 42% from 2018’s levels. And of course even less from current levels, once you take into account the reductions that took place because of the corona tragedy. Leaders also need to be transparent that this goal only captures a part of total EU emissions — as the rest is imported and not accounted for. As explained in the next point.
  • The proposed reductions do not include international aviation, shipping nor — again — consumption of goods manufactured outside the EU. So for instance, if your laptop is made in China, your shoes in Indonesia, your jeans in Bangladesh, your jacket in India, your coffee in Kenya, your smartphone in South Korea and your beef in Brazil — then basically none of that will appear as emissions within the EU. And a short train ride from Cologne to Aachen will result in more emissions that will be counted as EU’s responsibility than a flight to Buenos Aires or Bangkok and back again. This problem will not be ”fixed” by the vague proposal of future Border Carbon Adjustments (BCA). EU’s reduction targets and statistics must include all of the EU’s emissions.
  • The proposed reductions do not include the aspect of equity, which is absolutely essential for making the Paris Agreement work on a global level. The nations of the EU have clearly signed up to lead the way and to give low- and middle income countries a chance to build some of the infrastructure that we have already built — most of it by using fossil fuels during the last two centuries. Such as roads, hospitals, clean drinking water, schools, electricity and so on. If we fail to lead and go first like we’ve promised — then how can we expect that countries like China and India will do their fair share?
  • The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half by 2030 (from 2010, not the EU favorable 1990 baseline…) is based on a carbon budget that only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5°C. But these odds assume that natural ecosystems, the ocean and the ice sheets remain stable, i.e. do not cross tipping points triggering feedback loops that would accelerate warming. Such as the emissions from wildfires, forest dieback from disease and drought, the albedo effect from disappearing sea ice or the rapidly thawing arctic permafrost with the release of methane. Nor do these odds include already locked in warming hidden by toxic air pollution which alone could be as high as 0.5–1.1°C. Or the aspect of equity. It does however rely on future removal of enormous amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere with technologies that are very unlikely to exist at the scale assumed in time. So the 50% chance is in reality much less than a 50% chance.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store