In 2011 the EU released the findings of a survey of over 26,000 Europeans on the matter of the environment. Here are a few highlights:
• 95% of Europeans felt that protecting the environment was important to them personally (58% believe it to be very important)
• 83% believed that the efficient use of resources and the protection of the environment could boost economic growth
• 64% of respondents believed that the EU was the best method of legislating for environmental issues (40% of UK respondents answered this way, the lowest score)
• 79% believed that EU member states should pay for environmental efforts in non-EU countries
• 89% think that more funding should be made available for environmental projects
• 72% answered that they would be prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly products.
Please feel free to raise questions as to how the scores were for the UK in all of these questions, and which demographic groupings were more likely to be ‘green’ than others, and get stuck into how the questions were asked. Knock yourself out. These are not the issues I wish to discuss. Nor do I care about climate change, and how it is happening or not.
My point is that, in the main, Europeans believe that effort is required, that funding needs to be found, and that supranational decision-making is the most effective way to tackle the environment. This is the question that I would like us to address: Are member states better equipped to deal with environmental issues than a superstate? If so, can we prove it?
Creating an effective argument that shies away from any tub thumping jingoism but presents a clear case for local solutions will win us a great deal of support at the General Election. This issue is the Liberal Democrats’ main weapon of choice, and one that the Conservatives have also seized upon (their rebranding with a tree and Cameron visiting the Arctic are clear examples of how we need to take this question seriously).
From my experience in the Climate and Energy markets, I can illustrate how the EU solutions do not work:
1. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) created a system that resulted in a 50% ramp up in ozone-depleting CFC production, primarily in India and China, to generate carbon credits costing billions to be paid for by EU energy consumers
2. The EU ETS paid billions in subsidies to polluting power companies in both Phases One and Two via the free allocation of European Union Allowances (EUAs)
3. The EU ETS continues to pay billions in subsidies to the iron and steel sector, cement manufactures, ceramics firms, pulp companies, chemical firms, oil refineries, and other industrial companies via the free allocation of EUAs
4. The EU ETS is paying billions in subsidies to polluting airlines via a free allocation of EUAs
5. The EU ETS awards carbon credits worth millions to environmentally murderous large scale hydro-electric plants in the developing world
6. The EU ETS awarded carbon credits worth billions to self-certified projects in Ukraine and Russia
7. The EU ETS continues to award millions of Euros worth of carbon credits to unprovable cooking stove projects in Less Developed Countries
8. The EU ETS gives an environmental ‘free pass’ to the less efficient and higher emitting generators (anything under 20 MW/h is excluded from it)
9. The EU ETS was so poorly constructed that it caused multi-billion Euro VAT fraud
10. The EU ETS was so poorly secured that many millions of credits were stolen by the flick of a switch.
In other words, the EU’s central method of controlling carbon emissions and protecting the environment has been demonstrated to be too easy to be gamed, too large to manage, too inconsistent to deliver any meaningful environmental benefits and so riddled with holes it has rewarded the heaviest polluters will multi billion Euro payments. It has encouraged ozone depletion, it has promoted and helped pay for some of the world’s largest environmental disasters and it has become a magnet for crime.
This is how UKIP, in my opinion, should be quashing the idea that the EU is the best bet for regulating and protecting the environment. When given the chance the EU has quite demonstrably failed in its mission. Proof then, that the regulatory powers be handed back to the member states and run on nationally appropriate lines, ones that can be kept controlled and legal. Ones that will benefit the environment, not the polluter.