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Progress in developed countries

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Graham Stuart MP - Vice President of GLOBE International at the launch of the Study

The European debt crisis has dominated the EU agenda and, although many Member States have pushed the EU to increase its overall ambition by committing to a 30% reduction in GHG emissions relative to 1990 by 2020, internal opposition from a few fossil fuel-dependent Member States has meant this has not been possible.

The EU has also encountered strong international opposition to its decision to include aviation in the EU’s emissions trading scheme, resulting in a decision to “stop the clock” for 12 months to allow the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) to try to broker an international solution. Despite these difficul-ties, some progress has been made with the passage of a new Directive on Energy Efficiency.

Following the failure to pass dedicated climate change legislation in the USA, the Obama Administration has shifted to a regulatory approach using existing powers under the Clean Air Act. The “endangerment finding” from 2009, whereby carbon dioxide was ruled to be a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, has required the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to proceed with developing new regulations to manage CO2 emissions. In 2012, a permitting system was extended to existing sources of CO2e if they emit over 100,000 tonnes annually. Additionally, in March 2012, the EPA released a draft ruling limiting carbon pollution from new power plants. After two public hearings on the proposed rule, the agency received almost 3 million comments in favour of reducing carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants – a record for an EPA rule proposal. As of December 2012 the agency is finalising the rule.

Variation in approaching national legislative responses to climate change, as illustrated here, was a central theme in the study. In Japan, the ramifications of the Fukushima disaster and the resulting wholesale review of energy policy has meant climate change objectives have been overshadowed by a critical debate about the acceptability of the risks associated with nuclear power. It is likely, in the short term at least, that reduced nuclear power production following the shutdown and safety inspections after the Fukushima disaster will result in higher use of fossil fuels, with a resulting increase in GHG emissions. However, despite these challenges, in its Fourth Basic Environment Plan (agreed by Cabinet Decision on 27 April 2012), Japan has set itself a target of reducing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 and, in October, the government introduced a carbon tax.

In most other developed countries, mixed progress has been made. Australia moved toward the implementation of its 2011 Clean Energy Act and announced a decision to link its emissions trading scheme with the established EU scheme by 2018 at the latest. For the first time, one country – Canada – has regressed following its decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and the subsequent repealing of its “flagship” climate legislation, the Kyoto Implementation Act.

Read the summary of progress in 2012 in developing countries