The European Union might be going through a lot of financial turmoil at the moment, however they are still leading the way when it comes to environmental policy. Their carbon targets have consistently been higher than any other country in the world and they have also actually met and exceeded them.
At the Durban Climate Summit last year, the EU environment ministers were noted for their progressive and constructive role they played in coming up with a new international agreement.
The EU strategy has always been to lead with vision and to generate economic and environmental benefits. Since the EU has set binding emissions and renewable energy targets, many countries have followed suit. The carbon pricing cap-and-trade scheme was introduced in the EU and now New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea and most importantly, China have followed suit.
More recently, the EU set a cap on carbon emissions for all airlines. The decision to include airlines in the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) has been met with vehement opposition from China, Russia, and the US. In the grand scheme of things, the fees associated with the scheme are quite modest: only increaseincrease of around €4 to the price of a long haul ticket. If opposing countries were to impose levies or ground European flights, it would not only affect the European economy but it would damage their own economies as well.
According to James Murray of Business Green: This move has made not only other countries but also, “the airlines themselves to agree that what is required to tackle global aviation emissions is an international carbon pricing mechanism. The only difference is that non-EU countries and the airlines want to see the EU scheme suspended while this new mechanism is negotiated, something the EU will not concede on the grounds that it is the current emissions charges that are forcing everyone to the table. It has always said that it will drop aviation from the emissions trading scheme as soon as a comparable international mechanism for tackling emissions from the sector is in place.”
The EU is also ready to restart international negotiations to tackle the shipping sector‘s emissions by pricing emissions in EU waters. This will force other countries to comply or face charges unless they come back with a global solution. This is sure to create another round of opposition between trading blocs however, the EU seems oblivious to the ruckus.
Although the EU is in deep financial problems and is clawing its way out of a quagmire, but it is not about to sacrifice the ETS and continues to set ambitious targets across the board. By enforcing such norms within the bloc, they are forcing the rest of the world to comply and thereby raising the bar for policy making.