Discuss the evolution of the European Union’s policies relating to ozone depletion and climate change during the last two decades. Why has the European union been successful in the first and not the latter?
The situation for the legislation and the initiatives pertaining to ozone depletion and climate change as it stands now in terms of the EU response is its commitment to the new aim of the Key Action on Global Change, Climate and Biodiversity (Andersen et al (2005), Grundmann, R., (2006)). This is known as the European Commission’s Environment Programme under the 5th Framework Programme (1998-2002)(Anderson et al 2005). Climate change and ozone depletion have been on the agenda of global political actors like the EU since the 1970s following the warnings by scientists about the stratospheric depletion of the ozone layer which could expose the earth to ultraviolet B radiation (Andersen et al (2005), Grundmann, R., (2006)). Such depletion was aggravated by the presence of the ozone-depleting potentials of the CFC’s and HCFC’s (Andersen et al (2005), Grundmann, R, (2006)). The media hype provoked by such revelations prompted international response as nations woke up to the reality that even if they ceased all their environmentally harmful activities now it would still take half a century for the ozone layer to repair itself (Andersen et al (2005), Grundmann, R, (2006)). Thus, in 1985, The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was adopted to remedy such a problem through international scientific co-operation and exchange of information. Following this, in 1987, the Montreal Protocol was set up which, for the first time, placed a restraint upon the production and consumption of ODS and this protocol was subsequently strengthened by the EU MS regime based on the wording of Art.228 of the EU treaty(Aidt, T. 1998), (Anderson, Blackhurst (eds.) (1992),Conconi, P. (2000)). Moreover, the European Commission was given a mandate by the European Council to monitor the EU goals on this issue. Subsequently there have been quite a number of EU responses to this issue. In 1994 there was the council regulation 549/91 on Quantities of controlled substances permitted in 1994 for essential uses under Regulation 549/91. In 1995 the EU Commissioner called for tighter and better controls on HCFCs and methyl bromide to curb ozone depletion (ENDS, 1995).
Evaluating the EU response
Bearing in mind the importance of a coherent framework for addressing any efforts on the global level, Brack.D (1997) has spoken about the Montreal Protocol of 1997 on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and states thus that “a credible Montreal Protocol is required to prevent friction and antagonism between nations as global environmental problems worsen”. According to Brack, this can be remedied through the identification of the “areas of incompatibility between the Protocol and the GATT, particularly in the areas of most-favoured-nation treatment and the elimination of quantitative restrictions.”(Brack: 1997:1) Even though the road to the prevention of the ozone depletion has been more successful than similar efforts to prevent climatic changes there have still been a lot of difficulties with in the political arm-twisting on the international level and efforts by disgruntled industrialists to prevent closures or losses in their businesses. Oberthur (2008:641) has blamed the difficulties in the EU’s actions against ozone depletion upon the “Lack of leadership by EU in implementing international law despite intentions of Maastricht Treaty and its competence and ability to enforce controls on consumption of ozone depleting substances”.
However there is hope for international efforts and the EU has emerged as one of the most successful political actors amongst the existing trading blocs in the implementation of the environmental protection strategies. Taking the example of the United Kingdom, James (2002:21), in exploring the reasons behind the UK government’s difficulties in meeting EU regulations relating to the recycling of domestic fridges which came into effect October 1, 2000, has stated that this was mainly due to lesser co-operation between the recycling companies and the local governments in the implementation of the Waste management legislation. Grekos (2002:1075) (In a report by The House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee which undertook an inquiry into the problems of the UK on managing its “fridge mountains”) has blamed this upon the recent difficulties in the interpretation of Articles 11 and 16 of the new Regulation (EC) No 2037/2000 on Ozone Depleting Substances while stating that this could be remedied if, in future, “the Government would fully assess the impact of European Union Regulations and Directives before it agrees to them. The Government should also look at the forthcoming waste disposal Regulations and Directives as a matter of urgency. The Government should also ensure that in future all relevant stakeholders are consulted as part of the examination of the implications of EU legislation” (Grekos 2002:1075).
Waste management legislation
EC Directive 94/62/EC
Waste minimization is the key to reducing the amount of waste entering landfill sites and thus preventing Ozone Depletion and climatic changes. If the remaining waste is then recycled, where possible, this should significantly reduce the amount of waste entering landfill. To encourage waste minimization, EC Directive 94/62/EC encourages manufacturers to reduce the use of packaging, which is a major cause of such waste. According to the DEFRA website, in 2007 there were approximately 10.5 million tonnes of packaging waste produced in the UK, of which 59% was recycled. DEFRA also state that this percentage is significantly higher than the 27% of packaging waste which was recycled in 1998. This directive encourages manufacturers to use less packaging in their products to reduce packaging waste from 10.5 million tonnes to a more environmentally responsible figure.
The Directive targets, which must be met in the UK in 2008, are as follows:
EU Landfill Directive
This is another directive aimed at reducing ozone depletion and radical climate changes and this EU Landfill Directive is “”to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment, in particular the pollution of surface water, groundwater, soil and air, and on the global environment, including the greenhouse effect, as well as any resulting risk to human health, from the land filling of waste, during the whole life-cycle of the landfill”. (Defra, 2008:1)
The targets set by this directive are as follows:
By 2010 the production of biodegradable municipal waste should be reduced to 75% of that produced in 1995
By 2013 the production of biodegradable municipal waste should be reduced to 50% of that produced in 1995
By 2020 the production of biodegradable municipal waste should be reduced to 35% of that produced in 1995
If these targets are met, then waste production will be significantly reduced so less will go to landfill; most of the waste should be recyclable which would reduce waste going to landfill even further. According to the Waste Strategy (2007) there was 9% less waste entering landfill in the year 2004/05 than in 2000/01, however, this needs to be reduced significantly in order to meet the targets set out above.
Waste Strategy 2007
The waste strategy presents the waste hierarchy shown below:
- Waste prevention
- Energy recovery
- Disposal (taken from the Waste Strategy 2007 executive summary accessed from defra.gov.uk)
The intention of this strategy is to reduce the cost of waste treatment prior to entry into landfill and to save money as fewer natural resources are required to produce new products (Waste Strategy 2007). The Strategy proposes to issue incentives to householders in order to encourage the reduction of waste, the re-using of materials and, finally, the recycling of anything that cannot be re-used. The Strategy also suggests the increase in landfill tax as a deterrent from allowing large quantities of waste to enter landfill sites.
There has been a significant focus on sustainability and the environment during the last century and as such, the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was a potential turning point for the disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) (Read, 1999). Since the 1960s, the recycling of waste has become more important and has progressively been included in more and more government and local council legislation. According to Read (1999), approximately 50% of household waste is recyclable, yet much less than this is actually likely to be recycled. In the case of the UK, landfill sites across the country are reaching their limit and there is a distinct lack of new locations for new ones, especially due to public hostility to such facilities near residential areas. As a result, waste that is produced throughout the UK will soon have nowhere to be deposited. A more environmentally friendly alternative to waste being deposited in landfill is recycling which EU legislation has repeatedly endorsed. However, the current recycling rate in the UK is still way behind many other European countries such as the Netherlands, which, according to figures published in “Municipal Waste Management in the EU 2001″, (February 2003), recycles 59% of their household waste, closely followed by Austria who in 2001 recycled 58% (Friends of the Earth, 2008). In comparison, in the same year the UK only recycled 13% of all its household waste. It is clear to see that this is significantly different to that of other European countries, but the introduction of kerbside recycling schemes around the UK intend to bring the British recycling figures in line with the rest of Europe. Overall, however, the EU seems to have done relatively well in playing its part in ensuring a “greener” future for the Earth in terms of recycling recommendations. However, the law and initiatives pertaining to climatic changes have seen less success (Aidt, T. 1998), (Anderson, Blackhurst (Eds.) (1992), Conconi, P. (2000)).
Climatic Change and the EU
The Stern Report (2006) on the Economics of Climate Change made some landmark observations as to the detrimental impact of global warming on the world economy. While drawing attention to the potential damage caused by unmitigated climate change it stated that,
“The overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever…Damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. These are risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century…”(Stern, N. 2006:36).
The post industrial era presents compelling evidence that the global climate is in a state of flux and will continue to fluctuate, sometimes unpredictably and abnormally, over the coming decades of the 21st century (United Nations World Tourism Organization 2003). Statistics show that the global mean temperature increased over 0.76°C between 1850–1899 and 2001–2005(IPCC 2007), and this has been attributed to the constantly increasing greenhouse emissions which are said to cause adverse amounts of poisonous concentrations in the atmosphere (Clarkson, R. 2002:Pearce, D. W. 2006:Pielke, R. A., Jr. 2005). However this is not restricted to greenhouse emissions alone as these changes have extended to include other extreme climatic problems such as abnormal temperature and wind patterns (IPCC 2007). The adverse impact of climatic change is not just restricted to our lifestyles and social wellbeing but also stands as a threat to economies relying solely upon the nature of their climate as an industry (Yohe et al 2007). Indeed the United Kingdom’s Government Policy is increasingly taking into account the fact that in the decades ahead climatic change will become a focal issue for tourism development and management (Gossling, S. & Hall, and C.M. 2006).
The EU climate change framework is governed by its European Climate Change Programme (ECCP) which was launched in June 2000 through the European Commission. This was a response to the Kyoto protocol. The reason, therefore, that the climatic changes based EU initiatives have been less successful is not because of their ineffectiveness but mainly due to their recent legislative promulgation.
The Kyoto protocol itself was ratified in 2002. The European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has been the most significant development in the last six years, and today the EU ETS remains the largest greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world.
Similarly, the EU energy policy has just begun to manifest itself after its adoption in 2006 in a bid to reduce the emerging threat of CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles. Headman-Robinson (2008) has pointed out that it is possible to see more recent steps towards the furthering of the European Commission’s climate change and energy policy package, set out in Commission Communication: 2020 by 2020 and issued on January 23, 2008. This has led to a lot of controversy pertaining to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) amendments, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by non-ETS sectors, renewable energy targets, energy efficiency and other measures.
The EU Focus (2008) has indicated the recent developments in this area. It has been recently decided by the Commission to build up a package of proposals tailored to deliver the European Council’s commitments to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. It is also foreseen that these proposals might negatively affect local events tourism, but that a neutral position would further damage the economy.
Apart from that, there are technological and economical nuances involved here as these measures dramatically seek to increase the use of renewable energy in each EU member country and set legally enforceable targets for the EU member governments to achieve them. This is particularly true for countries with the highest rates of CO2 emissions and a thorough reform of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) is being looked at to finally cap such emissions EU-wide. According to the EU focus (2008) this “package seeks to deliver a reduction of EU greenhouse gases of at least 20 per cent and an increase of 20 per cent in the share of renewable energies in energy consumption by 2020, as agreed by EU leaders in March 2007.The emissions reduction will be increased to 30 per cent by 2020 if and when a new global climate change agreement is reached (Commission press release IP/08/80, MEMO/08/33, MEMO/08/34, MEMO/08/35 and MEMO/08/36, January 23, 2008)” (EU focus 2008:1-2). Finally in January 2007 the EU also made high level efforts to adopt an energy and climate change package and there were calls to the EU council and Parliament to approve “an independent EU commitment to achieve a reduction of at least 20 per cent in the emission of greenhouse gases by 2020 compared to 1990 levels and the objective of a 30 per cent reduction by 2020” (EU FOCUS 2008:1).
Finally, a further reason climate change initiatives will take some time to become effective is much more due to commercial and strategic reasons (Aidt, T. 1998), (Anderson, Blackhurst (Eds) (1992), Conconi, P (2000)). It was relatively easy to shut down large factories which made refrigerators and ozone-depleting substances such as CFC’s, but any effort to implement efforts against climatic change may have substantially more serious economic implications. For example, the South-West of the United Kingdom is a tourist destination and heavily dependent on that industry. Since EU Policy is increasingly taking into account the fact that in the decades ahead climatic change will become a focal issue for tourism development and management (Gossling, S. & Hall, and C.M. 2006) this is also true for a large number of tourist destinations like the South West regions of Britain where the tourism industry is considered a highly climate sensitive economic sector similar to the food and transport industry (Wilbanks et al 2007). The South West (Devon and Cornwall in particular) is but one example of the how regional manifestations of climate change are becoming highly relevant for tourism destinations and tourists alike, and a directed strategy or response could be said to be missing from local legislation in the region despite the emerging EU initiatives and a great deal of EU Objective 1 funding for many such areas. (Amelung et al 2008).
The key challenges, however, faced by the South West UK and countless other economies of the EU, are not just overseas competition and sustainable development of industry, but the potential impacts of climate change and how best to respond to the opportunities and challenges in the absence of EU initiatives (Peeters, P. 2007). On the face of it Global Warming is predicted to provide the region with longer, reliable summers thus preventing the local tourism business from being lost to sunnier destinations like the Mediterranean (Peeters, P. 2007). In the long run, however, the tourism industry and its stakeholders have been made aware of the implications for lacking a timely strategy to handle these changes which could potentially translate into an economic and environmental disaster for the region in the form of unsustainable pressure on the local environment (Ulph, A. (1999), Ulph, A. (2000), Walz,. Wellisch (1997), Wilson, J. (1996), WTO (1999)). This is an alarming concern for the local government which may well lose its tourists either way.
Current UK policy and measures in line with EU initiatives on “going green: to counter detrimental climatic changes” have included more widespread congestion charging, improved fuel efficiency of vehicles and investment in low carbon vehicles (The Energy Saving Trust 2004). This has mainly been a result of the wide awareness created by greater public and media awareness recent environmental documents like the Stern Report of 2007/6 ((Scott, D. 2006). Such initiatives have demanded stronger EU action to address the climatic issues affecting the UK Tourism industry, particularly in the context of marine and coastal environments. Furthermore, Britain may be facing a new dilemma as it weighs up its monetary profits against the environmental damage which will possibly be wrought by the 2012 Olympics in terms of greater carbon emissions and pollution. This has less to do with ozone depletion and more so with the environmental measures being proposed by the EU.
The final question is whether Britain will try and maintain its profits during the Olympics and risk an infringement of the EU agenda or try to have a ‘Green’ Olympics? The answer is clear: the EU has been less successful in the implementation of reforms to prevent climatic changes because the Kyoto protocol and the Stern Report are relatively recent developments with wide implications, whereas the law on ozone depletion dates from the eighties and was rather specific in changes to be made (e.g. removing CFCs from fridges and aerosols). Additionally, and as mentioned previously, it was much easier to discipline large corporations through the notions of corporate social responsibility and win debates against the US and Russian trade counterparts (Sturm, Ulph (2002), Ulph, A. (1996a), Ulph, A. (1997a), Ulph, A. (1997b)). Climatic change remains an internal issue of economic interest, and legislation to counter it rather depends on how much EU member states and the voters who elect their governments are prepared to sacrifice and give back in terms of finance and short-term damage to their economies, rather than receive in terms of environmental benefits in both the long and short term.
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