Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Why is Europe always first?

. Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Seems a lot of the new technology in the HVAC industry has been around for years in Europe. Seems new technology is never developed in the USA. Similarly, Europe always seems to be first in government action to reduce energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions.

LONDON, March 13 — As nations and politicians in many parts of Europe compete to burnish their green credentials, the British government today proposed laws requiring a 60 percent reduction in total carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

If approved, the draft Climate Change Bill could affect many Britons in many ways. Government representatives might be summoned to appear before judges for failing to meet targets; households could come under pressure to switch to low-energy light bulbs and to install more insulation, and manufacturers could be asked to build televisions or DVD players without standby modes that consume energy even when the devices are not in use.
Indeed, in a land enamored of late-model cars, the internal combustion engine and regular low-cost flights to sunnier climes, some of the measures could be unpopular with voters even as they inspire politicians’ acclaim.

“This bill is an international landmark,” the Environment Minister, David Miliband, told reporters. “It is the first time any country has set itself legally binding carbon targets. It is an environmental contract for future generations.”

Although its contribution to global warming is relatively modest, Britain has strived to position itself at the forefront of international efforts to address what Prime Minister Tony Blair said today was “the biggest long-term threat facing our world.”

The British draft law was announced only days after the 27-nation European Union committed itself to a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2020. The draft law would aim higher, proposing a reduction in Britain of between 26 and 32 percent in the same time frame.
Meeting with teenagers at his 10 Downing Street office today, Mr. Blair called for “a revolution” in Britons’ approach to energy use, from how they drive their cars, heat their homes and run their businesses to when they schedule vacation flights.

The draft law also foresees a carbon trading system and the creation of five-year “carbon budgets” planned 15 years ahead, to enable businesses and individuals to shape their behavior to help make a greener Britain.

A committee would be established to make annual assessments of the government’s progress or lack of it.

“A government that fails to meet the requirement under the bill to live within its environmental means will be subject to a judicial review,” said Mr. Miliband, the environment minister. “It will be for the courts to decide what sanctions to apply.”

Government leaders are planning to enact the law by next year, about a year ahead of the next national election, which is expected sometime in 2009.

“This is a revolutionary step in confronting climate change,” Mr. Blair said today. “It sets an example to the rest of the world.”

Climate change is expected to be a central issue in the national elections, which are likely to be fought between the Conservative leader, David Cameron, and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is expected to take over from Mr. Blair as leader of the Labor Party leader and prime minister sometime this summer.

On Monday, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Brown offered competing claims to environmental virtue. Mr. Cameron, who was photographed last year bicycling to his office and riding on a dog sled in the Arctic, was seen in news footage on Monday digging to plant a tree.

Mr. Brown, for his part, gave a major speech outlining incentives for householders to curb energy use. “I’m greener than you,” the conservative Daily Mail said in a headline printed over photographs of both politicians.

Mr. Cameron has taken what some columnists call a risky step by suggesting new taxes on airline travel, possibly alienating the 400,000-odd Britons who have second homes outside the country and fly regularly — often on low-cost airlines — to visit their properties. The Conservative leader is also pressing for annual targets for reducing carbon emissions, not the five-year targets proposed by Labor.

As sweeping as it is, the government’s proposal nonetheless falls short of demands by some environmental groups for an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

The British proposals and those by the European Union lay out schedules for reducing so-called greenhouse gases far beyond the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty that the United States refused to sign in 2001. China and India, with their booming economies, are also major polluters, but Mr. Milliband, the British environment minister, said the new British law would give Britain authority to persuade other countries to follow its lead.

Still, there were dissenting voices. In Tuesday’s Evening Standard, the columnist Nirpal Dhaliwal said there was “more than a whiff of colonial condescension about British politicians’ attitudes to developing world industrialization.”

Not only that, he said, Britain’s share of global carbon emissions was already relatively small — around two percent of the world total — while China has been building new coal-burning power stations at a rate of one every two weeks. “We could decide to live in the Stone Age, burning nothing, and it would have virtually no impact on the overall problem of global warming,” Mr. Dhaliwal wrote.