Europe is one of the biggest CO2 emitters but the continent is attempting to curb its bad habits with a series of commitments with the sole purpose of reducing emissions. The need to become greener is all too evident from the effects that climate change will have in Europe if things do not change for the better.
Here are the principle changes that Europe and the European Union has committed to make, along with the consequences to the continent as a result of climate change.
The Kyoto treaty forms the basis of Europe’s commitment to tackling climate change, and its principles have moulded many other follow-up treaties and European targets. The treaty assigns mandatory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas, including CO2, to all nations who have signed up. In May 2002, all fifteen (then) members of the European Union signed the Kyoto Protocol, committing to reduce emissions by carbon emissions by 12.5% from 1990 levels by 2012. The EU members have been among of the major supporters of the treaty and have urged other global nations to sign up.
However, it’s thought that many EU countries won’t meet the targets – though Britain and Sweden are amongst those European nations that will meet the reductions in carbon emissions.
The European Climate Change Programme (ECCP)
The ECCP was set up with the aim of providing the framework for European nations to deliver on their Kyoto Protocol commitments. This set out a series of targets, mainly for the transport and energy industries. Items in the programme include devising collaborative attempts to introduce lighter duty vehicles, promotion of sustainable transport and legislation for the aviation industry to make flight companies responsible for pollution from air travel. It also considers Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels for energy and looks at the wider introduction of renewable energy.
The European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme
One of the most significant elements of the ECCP has been the introduction of the Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading scheme – the largest green scheme of its kind in the world. All participants in the energy sector, and other key industries and businesses – including iron and steel production and processing, the mineral industry and the paper and card industry – will automatically be subject to the emission trading scheme, which sets restrictions on carbon emissions and penalties for industries breaking the restrictions.
Businesses are obligated to apply for a permit and to regularly report on their emission outputs. It’s thought that the trading scheme may be extended to other commercial industries at some point in the future.
European nations including the UK, Germany, France and Italy have continued to be instrumental in the climate change debate gathering pace. In February 2007, they, along with the US, Canada, Russia and Japan, reached a non-binding agreement to cooperate on tackling global warming at the meeting of the G8+5 Climate Change Dialogue in Washington. It’s hoped that this will form the basis of a global treaty to follow the Kyoto Treaty.
The Effects of Climate Change in Europe
Europe, as in other parts of the world, will feel the effects of climate change, and has already seen some indications of what may be to come. The UK has experienced extended periods of hot weather in the summer, and mild winters. Other nations have been experiencing anomalies in weather – including reduced skiing conditions in the Alps, and crop failures in the Mediterranean. Northern Europe may become wetter and more prone to flooding as the ice caps melt. Southern Europe on the other hand may become more prone to land fires and drought.