Current climatechange policies

In the context of this book, the current policies on climate change and the short-term dimensions of long-term routes to emission reductions are also important. The current situation is basically the ground on which innovations have to flourish and emission trends have to be reversed if the desired long-term goals are to be realized. It is clear that achieving the short-term climate targets is already proving extremely difficult. In industrialized countries, domestic action has so far not produced very impressive reduction figures. And where trend breaks in emissions have been achieved, this has been the result of unexpected developments (German reunification) or other policy goals, such as the closure of British coal mines, which have not been directly related to climate change. A gap between desires and reality can also be clearly observed in The Netherlands (see Box 1.1).

Chapter 3 of this book evaluates the current societal support in The Netherlands for climate-change policies and the actual behaviour of various actors, such as businesses, citizens and local policymakers. It explores whether, and if so how, climate-change issues play a role in the decision-making behaviour of societal actors. If, over the coming decades, we are going to realize the long-term levels of stabilization as described above, the current situation will have to change. Chapter 3 concludes with seven dilemmas that actors in society may currently face (to differing degrees) when dealing with climate change.

An important issue in taking action is the variety of perceptions that exist in society about reducing emissions. At one extreme, there is the position that solving the climate problem will have major ramifications and that it will bring industrialized societies to the brink of economic collapse. At the other extreme, the position is that there are many solutions for dealing with the climate problem and that solving the problem is indeed affordable without major economic sacrifices - and there will even be benefits.

In this discussion, it is interesting to note that over the last 20 years, the final energy costs (as a percentage of GNP) for countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have more than halved and are now in the order of 6-7 per cent of GNP (Blok, 2000). For The Netherlands, it has been calculated that although the costs for reducing CO2 emissions will increase drastically in absolute terms, the relative costs will only rise slightly (but will stay below 2 per cent GNP) so long as the Dutch GNP continues to rise (Bezinningsgroep Energiebeleid, 2000). IPCC (2001c) comes up with similar numbers for the costs of reaching the Kyoto targets in industrialized countries, but it also points to the fact that lower stabilization levels will lead to higher costs. Since the share of energy in GNP as a whole apparently declines and the economic consequences of climate policies remain limited, one may conclude that this should offer opportunities for developing long-term policies on climate change

chapter 1


CO2 targets in policy documents in The Netherlands and international developments

Year Target

1988 Toronto target: reduction of CO2 emissions by 20% of 1988 levels by the year 2005 as an initial global goal.

1989 National Environmental Policy Plan (NEPP): short-term target of stabilization of CO2 emissions in 2000, based on 1990 level; long-term target of stabilizing global emissions on a level that can be maintained by oceans and biosphere

1990 After the change in government, the new government presents a stricter version of the NEPP in the form of NEPP-plus: stabilization of CO2 emissions by 1994-1995 and a new target for 2000, i.e., reduction of CO2 emissions by 3% in 2000, compared to 1990 levels, and a possible reduction of CO2 emissions by 5% in 2000, compared to 1990 levels, if international developments allow, and based on decisions made in 1995.

1990 The Netherlands states that together with other countries, they will research the Toronto target as an option for more drastic climate policy. It is clear that this will go beyond no-regret policies (Memorandum on Climate Change).

1993 Second National Environmental Policy Plan: reduce CO2 by 3% in 2000, compared to 1990 levels, and if international developments allow (and based on decision making in 1995), a possible reduction of CO2 emissions - by 5% in 2000, compared to 1990 levels (NEPP-II).

1995 Given the slow international progress and the difficulties of realizing reductions domestically, the government maintains its -3% CO2 target but will not go for -5% (Letter to Parliament about CO2).

1996 A goal of post-2000 stabilization of CO2 emissions within The Netherlands of at least -3%, compared to 1990 levels, if international conditions allow (2nd Memorandum on Climate Change). Further reductions of greenhouse gases after 2000 by 1%-2% per year in industrialized countries.

1997 EU target of -15% and Dutch target of -10% in CO2 emissions as part of EU burden-sharing agreement before Kyoto.

1997 At Kyoto, the introduction of a basket approach of 6 greenhouse gases, international flexibility through Joint Implementation, Clean Development Mechanisms and Emission Trading and inclusion of sinks. Worldwide reduction of -5.2% in period 2008-2012.

1998 Dutch target as part of the EU burden-sharing agreement: -6% between 2008-2012, compared to 1990 levels, and for the EU as a whole, -8% for all greenhouse gases.

1999 The Netherlands is one of the first industrialized countries to publish an implementation plan aimed at achieving its Kyoto targets (Memorandum on Implementation of Climate Change Policies).

2001 The Fourth National Environmental Policy Plan looks 30 years ahead and considers the transition towards a sustainable energy system crucial for dealing with the climate problem.

2001 At COP-6 bis in Bonn, a political agreement is reached about the rules of the Kyoto Protocol. This deal is made after earlier unsuccessful negotiations at COP-6 in The Hague (November 2000).

2001 At COP-7 in Marrakech, the COP-6 bis deal is finalized and put into legal language. This should make ratification of the Kyoto Protocol possible before the Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002.


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