Wednesday

30th Nov 2022

Spain and Netherlands among countries to buy way to green targets

  • Journalists covering the climate conference in Kyoto, December 1997. (Photo: UN Photo/Frank Leather)

Up to nine EU countries may buy their way to achieving targets set under an international climate change treaty, with around €2.5 billion to be spent on purchasing emission-reduction credits from other countries.

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, set binding reduction targets for 37 industrialised countries, to be achieved in the period 2008 to 2012.

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The European Environment Agency (EEA) has assessed the achievements of its 33 members: the 28 EU nations, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.

Of those countries, 30 had a country-specific Kyoto target. The agency expects the vast majority to achieve their targets, but some of them will actually pay to do so.

According to a report from the European Environment Agency, published on Tuesday (28 October), nine of the 15 back in 1997 plan to buy or have bought carbon credits to deliver on their commitments.

If a country is unable to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gases by improving the efficiency of energy use or increasing the share of energy sources that do not emit these gases, it can pay its way out.

A country can buy credits from other countries that are over-achieving or invest in emission-reducing projects abroad although Green NGOs say these are “often dubious”.

"Those projects have very often delivered questionable results in terms of emission cuts, and on top of that they don't help the green technology development in Europe", said Joris den Blanken from Greenpeace.

According to the EEA report, 12 European countries have announced they have "allocated financial resources" for credit buying, although it adds that Ireland and Portugal probably will not need to.

The countries are EU members Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain; and non-EU members Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

The total declared financial resources add up to €2,523 million. The largest announced financial contribution comes from Austria, which expects to spend €611 million.

The Netherlands and Spain are expected to spend €446 and €400 million respectively.

Italy is lagging behind however and “still not on track towards its burden-sharing target under EU law”.

Most eastern European countries, by contrast, over-achieved on reducing actual greenhouse gas reduction, largely as a result of the closure of many large emission-spouting plants in the 1990s.

Whether or not a country has achieved its targets for the 2008-2012 will be determined by an international review – but this is a process that could last until 2016.

On the same day as the report on the Kyoto targets, the European Environment Agency published a report on noting that the EU is making “good progress” on its goals of a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas, a 20 percent share of renewable energy sources and 20 percent more efficient energy use by 2020.

Last week EU leader agreed a 40 percent reduction target for 2030.

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