As most agricultural produce is exported, imposing production restrictions in Ireland, such as culling dairy cows, will not reduce emissions. As global demand is unaffected, the shortage is filled by producers from other countries, including some whose unit carbon footprint is worse than figures for Ireland. Because the planet shares a common atmosphere, territorial targets for carbon emissions don’t make scientific sense.
Reducing emissions arbitrarily wherever policy allows and regardless of the cost is economically wasteful, so territorial, country-specific targets don’t make economic sense either.
Economic prosperity is maximized through international trade and specialization, which means reductions should be made where costs are lowest on the planet.
When a superior civilization in a distant part of the universe observes the plight on Earth and dispatches a rescue mission, they will be alarmed to discover that 200 competing governments are pursuing incoherent policies.
The setting of national territorial emissions targets by each country, often inappropriately measured in terms of production rather than consumption, sets the framework for intergovernmental disagreements, while further breakdown of targets by economic sector creates internal conflicts, as in Ireland over the disputes over it sector-specific caps were observed.
The national goals drawn up by the European Council were treated in Ireland as biblical commandments from Mount Sinai inscribed on tablets of stone, rather than as a temporary political compromise that could be revised.
It is the European Union’s low-carbon political architecture that creates these tensions between member states, between the EU and its global trading partners, and between sectors within each member state.
In Ireland, beyond these arbitrary EU figures, there is no sound economic basis for the sectoral emissions cap dispute, most controversial with farm emissions: it is the wrong argument about emissions being mismeasured.
Since the alarm from climate scientists in the 1990s, Europe has pursued a policy of CO2 reduction more actively than almost any other economic region. The targets need to be assessed alongside a range of other policies in place in European countries that prevent emissions.
Coal-fired power plant construction has halted and life extensions are being granted reluctantly, while elsewhere, particularly in Asia, new coal blocks are being built on a large scale with expected lifetimes of 40 years and more.
The nuclear industry is being revived and renewable power generation is being promoted.
Europe has heavy taxes on motor vehicles, while in the US, the world’s second-largest emitter, auto fuel costs 40 percent below Europe’s price, where a cut in the modest federal excise tax is still being considered.
On a per capita basis, European consumers are more likely to be carbon saints than sinners among high-income countries.
The EU and other nations that enjoyed early industrialization are being criticized by late developers for their outsized contribution to the greenhouse gas legacy inventory.
Meanwhile, the EU is considering tariffs on the same developing countries to which high-emission industries have been outsourced to compensate for their failure to price emissions at the European level.
The architecture chosen by the EU includes country-specific targets for aggregate national emissions across a variety of economic sectors, many of which are measured on the basis of production rather than consumption.
Emissions from oil products exported around the world are not attributed to Saudi Arabia, they appear quite reasonably in the calculations for the consuming countries.
This does not apply to agricultural products, for which the consumer countries are spared and the producers are required to make annoying emission reductions. In a world of free trade modeled on the EU single market, the most efficient exporting countries are chosen by the political architecture for the biggest cuts.
With EU countries combined accounting for only about 11% of global emissions, it’s easy for climate change advocates to point out that no country is a planet, none has its own atmosphere, and even a massive effort in Europe alone makes a marginal difference, though China, the US, India and others are doing too little.
This argument is particularly plausible in the small EU countries, which would not contribute significantly to global concentration even if they could drastically reduce new emissions, especially if production is shifted away from low-cost locations.
These considerations led economists 30 years ago to recommend a global carbon pricing agreement that would operate on demand rather than production.
This is the path we have not taken – while some countries have included elements of carbon taxation in their policy response, including Ireland, economists have not won the global political battle. An initial willingness in Europe to go this route in the 1990s was counteracted, and territorial, production-related national goals are the result.
This is a suboptimal policy and everyone knows it: petroleum products should actually be produced in Saudi Arabia because the costs are lower there. And the resulting emissions should be blamed on the importing countries, which they are doing.
But the volume is too large and needs to be reduced, and user-side tax is the most efficient way. Europe’s high taxes on car fuel stifle demand and inhibit production from choosing the best location. If every country had higher user taxes, the necessary production cuts would occur, and marginal, high-priced producers would stop first.
This also applies to agricultural production. Virtually no taxes are levied on staple foods in Europe, despite significant CO2 emissions.
Under current EU policy, countries with large agricultural sectors are singled out for larger cuts, even though the current geographical distribution of agricultural production is carbon efficient. Higher taxes on the consumer side would help shift production from inefficient to efficient locations within Europe and elsewhere.
The geopolitics of Ukraine’s invasion has already prompted shifts in EU policy away from territorial targets aimed at targeting food exporters and not aimed at cutting global emissions. Instead of the 25 percent upper limit for agriculture and implausible upper limits for other sectors, a state fudge would have been a better option, combined with constructive criticism of the failings of EU policy.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/one-planet-needs-one-carbon-plan-national-targets-wont-work-41879479.html A planet needs a carbon plan – national targets will not work