Research Group Sustainability and Climate Policy
Prof. Dr. Felix Ekardt, LL.M, M.A
The research group has analyzed the conflicts between global free-trade, the WTO, and welfare statism in industrialized countries and developing countries in a study financed by the Hans-Böckler-Foundation.
The Sonntagszeitung, the biggest Swiss newspaper, talked with Felix Ekardt about the research group's global climate protection concept. To the interview with Sonntagszeitung.
At the end of August, Felix Ekardt and Michael Kerbler discussed the financial crisis and climate change. The discussion was boradcast by the Austrian Radio Ö 1.
In 2009, the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol on climate protection will be negotiated in several steps and will finally be decided 2009 in Copenhagen. Yet Kyoto was not a success. The industrialized countries stand still regarding climate protection and that only because of the break down of heavy industries in eastern Europe after 1990. According to the Kyoto Protocol, upcoming countries like China or India are not subject to any climate goals at all. Emissions have increased by 40 % since 1990. Yet more drastic steps are more necessary than ever. Much is said about a world-wide decrease of emissions by 40 to 50 % and a reduction of 60 to 80 % in the Western hemisphere until 2050, compared to 1990 – and of an amount of 2 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per capita until 2050. Currently Americans produce 20, Germans 11, the Chinese 4, and Africans 0.5 tons of carbon dioxide. The IPPC requires a world-wide reduction of 50 to 80 % and a reduction of over 90 % in Europe given one accepts a global worming of 2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius. Actually, stricter goals are necessary because the IPPC predictions were far too optimistic. The IPPC-figures do not take fully into account the massive self-reinforcing effects of global warming. Moreover, a temperature increase by 2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius could already be devastating. Therefore, the industrialized countries must become a zero-emission society. The Copenhagen Protocol, however, appears to obey Kyoto: too permissive goals for industrialized countries and no or vague goals for development countries (what follows, for example, from `2 degrees of warming until 2050'?); hardly any sanctions in case gaols are missed; too many loopholes; too insufficient amounts of money against global poverty, which will be aggravated by global warming; obscure funds instead of clear rights to financial assistance for developing countries. In particular, an effective global greenhouse gas limitation for all countries seems unlikely. The problem: We give away oil and coal, which are then burnt in the South. Hence, we need a real global climate reversal.
What could be an alternative for Copenhagen? Global greenhouse gas emissions should be strictly limited and distributed equally per capita in order to avoid disastrous climate change. These emission rights would be hold by the nation states then. The margin per head in 2050 should be around 0,5 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalents per year according to the IPCC – which is more than the current greenhouse gas emissions of many of the developing countries, however far less than the present per capita emission of the Western world. Instead of starting directly with 0,5 tonnes emission per capita on a global scale, one would approach this target by several steps before 2050 to ensure an effective implementation (starting for instance by 5 tonnes in 2013). Developed countries, emitting a high amount of greenhouse gases would usually have to buy emission rights from the southern countries, which do not need them due to their little national emissions. Although this kind of emission trading amongst states does exist already, it does neither include the southern countries nor stringent climate goals for Western countries.
Thus not only climate protection but also the second global problem could be tackled: global poverty. Additionally, strong climate protection could lead to dynamic economic development, which could help to manage the global financial crisis. Furthermore, developing countries need to be integrated gradually into global reduction obligations of greenhouse gas emissions by providing them transitionally with extra emission rights. In contrast, Western countries would have to be subject to higher restrictions. A global institution – like the existing UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn – would need to be entitled to supervise the reduction of emissions and in case of need to sanction it strictly.
The annually decreasing aggregate number of emission rights held by each state or each group of states, for instance the EU, after international emission trading would have to be distributed amongst the producers of primary energy (like electricity and oil companies) by an extensive European emission trading system. Those producers of primary energy should only be allowed to emit greenhouse gases to the extent that they hold emission rights. This would cover, in contrast to the present EU emission trading scheme, which only includes some industrial sectors and weak targets, nearly all climate gas emissions, as production and consumption greenhouse gas emissions of all persons living in a state is all but most clearly represented by primary energy. In consequence some national climate instruments could be replaced. Primary energy companies would have to buy emission rights for instance at auctions and thus pass on those prices, distributed on products, electricity, heating and fuel, to the consumer. At the same time a nation or a group of states, like the EU, would distribute the auction revenues equally per capita to every citizen (so-called `eco-bonus'). Furthermore, sectors like land use, aviation and shipping as well as deforestation, which occurs in the rain forest, would have to be fully included in all this, as they are also relevant for the climate.
By this means, a significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and of the consumption of fossil fuels would take place. In consequence this would massively lead to more renewable energies with low greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency, which would also be economical efficient – considering not only the high costs of climate change. Even from a short-term perspective energy efficiency and renewable energies are favourable – by enhancing new branches of the economy and simultaneously becoming independent from energy imports and increasing oil prices. By this means permanent energy supply is ensured and violent conflicts about decreasing resources can be avoided.
It would be more than fair if Western countries paid southern countries by buying emission rights, as the per capita emission of a European is still several times more than that of an Indian or African – who should be allowed to emit more climate gases in order to overcome oppressive poverty in the southern hemisphere. All the more so when regarding the fact that people living in the southern hemisphere – as well as future generations – will be suffering the most from climate change, which was mainly caused in the Western countries. At the same time the `eco-bonus' would help socially disadvantaged persons in Western countries because they usually consume less energy and products (and therefore pay not more for the emission trading costs than they would get from the `eco bonus'). Hence energy would remain steadily affordable for anyone – independently from oil and gas prices. This applies even if the `eco-bonus' was low in the west and high in the south, because costs of international emission trading would be subtracted from the Western `eco' bonus and added to the southern one. A global economically and socially compatible turnaround in climate policy, which would be profitable for (nearly) everyone (especially for people in developing countries because of a high eco bonus and low emission trading costs, as they do not consume much energy at the moment), thus seems possible.