In a debate earlier this year on climate change, we published a contribution from the British MEP Roger Helmer, a member of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP), arguing that global CO2 emissions are going up so fast that there’s nothing we can do about it. He believed, therefore, that measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions were needlessly damaging to Europe’s economy:
At the moment, there are something like twelve-hundred new coal-fire power stations in the pipeline around the world, including 25 in Germany. So, if we think that we need to reduce CO2 globally, I’m afraid we just have to accept that we’ve failed. It won’t happen.
More fossil fuels are being discovered, we’re finding shale gas, the Japanese are finding methane from the seabed, and the Americans are fracking vast quantities of gas. We are going to be increasing global atmospheric CO2 whatever we do. We can crucify our economies in Europe and in Britain on the alter of climate change in the hopes of making a difference but, in fact, the emissions are going up so fast in China, in India, and around the world, that we won’t make any difference.
Not long afterwards, we had a question sent in by Marco from Portugal who wanted to follow up on Roger Helmer’s point. Marco wanted to know what the EU could do regarding increasing CO2 emissions from developing countries, particularly China and India. Estimates suggest that China accounts for almost one quarter (23%) of global CO2 emissions, whilst the USA produces almost as much (19%) and the EU is responsible for 13% (India, however, accounts for just 6% of global emissions).
To get a response, we spoke to the Polish Minister of Environment, Marcin Korolec. He was adamant that countries must agree voluntarily to lower emissions, and the EU should not try to force them to do so (on this point: it’s interesting to note that the Polish government has come into conflict with EU rules on CO2 reduction in the past).
To get another perspective, we also spoke to Halldor Thorgeirsson, the Director for Implementation Strategy at the UNFCCC Secretariat. How would he respond?
Next, we put a question to Halldor Thorgeirsson from Dobromir. He blamed lobbying from the oil and gas industry on slowing down the rate of adoption of renewable energy technologies:
The oil and gas industry generate enormous profits and have strong lobbies in most countries. They have a big influence on many politicians and their decisions. This is the primary reason why the transition to renewable energy is slow.
How would Thorgeirsson respond?
Finally, we had a video question sent in from Bethany, wanting to know why policy-makers continue to rely on market-based solutions like the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS has had a bumpy time recently, with the collapse of the carbon market earlier this year and ongoing talks over whether or not to prop up prices. So, has the market-based approach failed?