The Individual European Countries

Although the EU now dominates climate policy, the roles of the individual countries have not disappeared. Fifteen or twenty years ago, before the EU was so strong and unified, their policies were crucial in negotiating the Framework Convention in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

During the 1980s it seemed that Britain would be on the side of industry and burning more oil and carbon. Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 on a free market platform for the Conservative Party. She was a great advocate of a smaller role for government, blaming the kingdom's economic stagnation on nationalized industries like coal and steel, heavy handed state regulation, and a lack of free enterprise incentives. Her policies paralleled and indeed led those of Ronald Reagan in the U.S. Early on, she began to sell state owned corporations, including the North Sea oil and gas corporations.

Thatcher's remedy began to work, and the economy picked up. Unlike Reagan, however, she was concerned about the environment. In particular she worried about the greenhouse effect. By training, she was a chemist, having taken a degree in the subject at Oxford University. She was also persuaded by the scientific work of the IPCC. In 1988 she gave a speech to the Royal Society, in which she outlined environmental dangers, and the following year she addressed the UN General Assembly, calling for protocols on climate change, ozone depletion, and the preservation of plant species. Thatcher also hosted an international conference on saving the ozone layer. British scientific agencies, such as the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter, are among the best in the world. British scientists have held influential positions in international agencies. For example John Houghton chaired the technical section of the IPCC.

British support for controlling greenhouse gases continued under Thatcher's Conservative Party successor as prime minister, John Major. When the Labor Party won control of the government in 1997 and Tony Blair became prime minister, the government's support for the Kyoto Treaty was even stronger. Yet, a strange thing happened with Blair. He lost his enthusiasm for the Kyoto Protocol. In 2005, he said that he was changing his thinking about this. He no longer believed that negotiating international treaties was going to help. The truth is, he observed, "no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in light of a long-term environmental problem" [5]. The only hope he saw was new science and technology. In October he said:

We also have to recognize that while the Kyoto Protocol takes us in the right direction, it is not enough. We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions radically but Kyoto doesn't even stabilize them. It won't work as intended, either, unless the U.S. is part of it. We have to understand as well that, even if the U.S. did sign up to Kyoto, it wouldn't affect the huge growth in energy consumption we will see in India and China [6].

Even more than Britain, Germany has been a leader in the movement to control greenhouse gases. In 1990, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his Cabinet announced that Germany intended to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 25% of the 1987 level by 2005. Besides the environmental improvements, Kohl and his Christian Democratic Party believed this was a way to help the nuclear power industry, which had been under attack since the Chernobyl accident. Nuclear reactors emitted no carbon. Also, the Christian Democrats believed that a pro-environmental policy might take support away from the Green Party and might undermine the Socialist-Green coalition government [6]. The Cabinet Resolution established an inter-ministerial working group and five study groups. Unlike the U.S., in Germany most scientists work directly for government agencies, and they do not have the tradition of taking positions in opposition to their employers.

Germany continued to develop its policy of big reductions in carbon dioxide, and this was the position that it took to the Rio Summit two years later. In fact, the closing of inefficient and unprofitable factories in East Germany allowed the newly reunited country to reduce carbon emissions by 13% in just five years. Two further factors were the decline of the coal industry due to mine depletion and an economic recession that occurred during the period. Finally, in response to the guilt remaining from World War II, Germany likes to be seen as a leader on moral issues. Its new constitution of 1994 includes environmental rights. At home, the anti-warming policy was not universally applauded. The Economic Ministry and the Transportation Ministry did not consider it achievable and worried about harm to the economy. Trade unions considered it a threat to jobs. Within Europe, Germany pushed for a strong stance by proposing the bubble, whereby less developed members like Portugal and Greece would get lenient targets of 20 to 30% increases, to be made up for by even bigger reductions by Germany and Britain.

Recently, scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have discovered that living plants, dried leaves and grass emit methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide. The quantity is significant, amounting to 10 and 30% of all annual global emissions of methane. This new finding fits with other satellite studies that show increased methane correlated with deforestation and unexplained plumes of methane over old tropical forests. The consequences are worth noting because so far scientists have believed that planting more trees would decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but this may be canceled out by the methane. The Max Planck Institute is in fact a collection of eighty nonprofit research centers sponsored by federal and state governments.

France has strongly supported limits to greenhouse gases. Unlike Germany and Britain, it sees nuclear power to be a key ingredient. Furthermore, the government sees this to be a route to independence from foreign oil supplies, and has connected it to its defense policy of an independent nuclear strike force. Furthermore, the utility, Electricite de France, was a government corporation. The French polity is highly centralized, depends on experts, and has a long tradition of planning. France generates 77% of its electricity from the atom, plus 13% from falling water. It has a total of fifty-nine reactors. Thus, due to its energy mix, the country emits only a small amount of carbon dioxide.

Leading up to the Rio Summit, France strongly supported the draft treaty that became the Framework Convention on Climate Change. A French diplomat, Jean Ripert, chaired the negotiations at the United Nations headquarters. Under pressure from the George H. W. Bush Administration, he was forced to water down the draft. When questioned on this, he diplomatically replied, "We've got to start somewhere" [7].

Five years later, in preparation for the Kyoto Conference, France advocated firm controls, committing itself to a 15% reduction. A week before the Conference, the government announced a comprehensive plan that encompassed taxes, public transportation, renewables, and afforestation. Quotas for industry would be voluntary. The environment minister, Dominique Voynet, declared she would rather see no agreement than one watered down to meet the demands of the Americans. Once the sessions started in Kyoto, the French delegates held firm to their position, but on the last night they compromised, at the urging of the British, in order to prevent the collapse of the conference. While the European target was an 8% reduction, after burden sharing adjustments, the French target was zero, that is, stabilization at the 1990 level.

The government did not actually decide on its own plan to meet the Kyoto targets for three years. The left wing coalition that governed under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was divided on several issues. Environment minister Voynet opposed emissions trading, but finally had to concede on this point. The key instrument would be the ecotax on fuels used by industry, utilities and households. Gasoline and diesel fuel for automobiles and trucks would be taxed. In fact, France was the only European country actually to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, due to its nuclear power plants and a sluggish economy. France toyed with the idea of getting credits under the Protocols

Clean Development Mechanism by helping a developing country build a nuclear power reactor, a concept frightening both to environmentalists and those worried about weapons proliferation. Although it did not pursue this at the time, recently it agreed to help Libya to develop a civilian nuclear program. Libya did promise to give up nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Yet, this was still the same country that sponsored terrorism in the 1980s, including bombing civilian airlines over Scotland and Niger. Furthermore, it hardly seemed to need more sources of energy in view of all its oil.

When President Bush declared in 2001 that the U.S. would not adhere to the Kyoto Protocol, France led the outrage. Voynet called it a scandal. The foreign minister warned the U.S. it could not ignore the problem if it wanted to be a world leader. The president, Jacques Chirac, said, "I appeal solemnly to all states and first and foremost the industrialized countries to implement the Kyoto protocol on climatic change in its totality and without delay" [8]. Righteous anger united all parts of the political spectrum. Chirac was a conservative, the prime minister and the foreign minister were Socialists, and the environment minister was a Green. In July the US-EU split on global warming fired debate at the annual Group of 8 meeting in Genoa, Italy, but Bush was unrepentant. The session was marred by riots by protesters, some concerned about the environment and others about the more general threat of globalization to the Third World. The city became a battle zone, and one protester was killed. While most of the demonstrations were peaceful, a few hundred anarchists, mainly from Germany and Britain, hurled firebombs and set cars, stores and banks on fire, resulting in $25 million damage.

In 2002, France joined the other EU countries in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. The impetus was the upcoming Environmental Summit at Johannesburg. President Chirac attended and told the delegates, "If the whole of humanity behaved like the northern countries, it would take two more planets to satisfy our needs" [9].

The following summer a severe heat wave concentrated French attention on global warming. A few months previously the new conservative government had reviewed the country's climate plan, finding that although France was right on target for controlling emissions overall, its transportation and construction industries were polluting too much. The government reiterated its support for the nuclear industry, in spite of criticism from environmentalists and the example of Germany's planning to phase out nuclear plants. Most French citizens were opposed. A public opinion poll found 67% of French people believed—wrongly—that nuclear energy triggered climate change [10].

Denmark signed the Framework Convention in Rio, and then came home to do something about it, unlike many other countries. It announced that it would cut emissions by 20% by 2005, at a time when the Netherlands and Belgium mumbled about a 5% cut, and Britain proposed mere stabilization. During its rotating EC presidency, the Danes put first priority on ratifying the Framework Convention and introducing carbon taxes. The country began its own carbon tax, the first and only one to do so. By this action, its advocates intended to set an example for the rest of Europe. At the Kyoto Conference of the Parties, a Dane, Ritt Bjerregaard, was the chief negotiator for the EU. In her outspoken manner, she publicly complained about the weak proposals coming from the U.S. and from Japan. Unfortunately, by the end of the conference, her delegation had to accept a weaker position in order to have any agreement at all.

In 1981, the government energy plan had set a target of producing 10% of its energy from wind, and it seems on schedule to meet this goal. The generators are owned by electric utilities, municipalities, farm cooperatives and even individuals. In the first years, the government paid a subsidy of 30%, which went down to 15% as costs fell. Some of the early windmills, which many local residents called ugly and noisy, seemed to be environmental blights themselves. Improved engineering helped, and for esthetic reasons, they are now concentrated in wind farms rather than near neighbors.

From 1982 to 2002, the Danish parliament supported the environment strongly, but in 2002, the voters gave the Liberal Party (actually conservative) and its allies enough seats to form a new coalition government. It was conservative in policy and less eager to favor Danish leadership in environmental matters. In a controversial appointment, it named Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, to direct the Environmental Assessment Institute. His book makes a strong argument against the scientific evidence of global warming and of techniques to prevent it. Upon his appointment, the Institute rewrote its official policy to match Lomborg's. First, the Institute advocated getting the most for the money. Second, it noted that most of the Danish proposals are expensive to implement, such as ending electricity exports, which would cost the nation $263 million. Third, the high cost of earlier efforts was due to the fact that Denmark focused on reducing its own carbon dioxide emissions. It would be cheaper to carry out reductions in other countries by using the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol [11]. This was a big change from prior Danish policy.

Lomborg's colleagues did not all take well to his critique of global warming. The Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, a branch of the national Research Agency that draws together some of the country's most senior scientists, condemned his work. The committee's 6,640 word judgment concluded that his book "is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty" and that it "is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice." The committee said that "The defendant, .based on customary scientific standards and in light of his systematic onesidedness in the choice of data and line of argument, has clearly acted at variance with good scientific practice" [12]. This followed blasts from major international scientific journals. Nature printed a review that compared Lomborg to maverick academics who deny the Holocaust [13]. Scientific American devoted eleven pages to an attack in which Lomborg is accused of "egregious distortions" and of being "ignorant" and "muddled" [14]. Later, the Science Ministry, reflecting the views of the elected political leaders, overturned the dishonesty verdict. Lomborg himself left the directorship after less than two years. Indeed, the situation was unusual by European standards, both in Lomborg's naked imposition of right wing policy on an agency, and in the other scientists' attacks on him for dishonesty.

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