It’s not easy being green

Members of the European Union are finding out that it is not that easy to implement any type of green-based regulations as what is happening with their Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and Electronic Recycling Law.

A report from ICIS News (subscription required) alerted the green blog that the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the US Congress’ “detective” agency – released a study this week stating that the first phase (2005-2007) implementation of EU’s ETS has currently minimal impact in lessening their greenhouse gas emission as well as driving clean technology investments, partly blamed by the the short time frame in the ETS implementation.

With the next US administration also looking to implement its own version of carbon emissions trading, GAO advices that based on the EU ETS experience, the Congress should consider [1] the importance of historic emissions data availability and reliability; [2] the need for long-term certainty to encourage investments in less-carbon-intensive technologies; and [3] the importance of the design and implementation of allocating carbon allowances, which will have significant economic effects.

Many energy intensive industries such as power/electricity companies, refining, chemicals, steel, cement, etc., are afraid that the government implementing any carbon trading regulation will force companies to be less competitive to countries that don’t have any climate policies and will ultimately drive them to relocate production overseas.Meanwhile, the EU Commission is also forced to admit this week that their electronic recyling law under the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive enforced since 2004 has become costly and burdensome, and furthermore failed to significantly reduce the dumping of electrical and electronic products in landfill as well as the widespread illegal trading of e-waste to non-EU countries.

“Only one third of electrical and electronic waste in the European Union is reported as appropriately treated and the other two thirds are going to landfills and potentially to sub-standard treatment sites in or outside the European Union. The collection target of 4 kg per person per year does not properly reflect the situation in individual Member States.”

Because of this, the Commission is proposing to revise the regulation and instead of the 4 kg/person/year target, mandatory collection targets will be 65% of the average weight of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market including medical devices.

European electronic manufacturers are protesting that they will not be able to meet the targets and that the financial burden of collecting/recycling e-waste will fall on to electronic producers instead.

EICTA, the industry body representing the information and communications technology and consumer electronics industries in the EU, says the new proposal would enable municipalities and business end-users to adopt a speculative approach and sell e-waste to producers at a later date when producers will be obliged to comply with the collection targets.

2 Responses to It’s not easy being green

  1. Abbey Chemicals 5 December, 2008 at 10:01 am #

    Our company supplies chemicals & also disposes of hazardous waste.

    The amount of waste that goes to landfill (in my opinion) is terrible – I think that the government should give incentives to recycle, which can be passed on to the people disposing of waste. Therefore making them more likely to recycle!

    I also find it hard trying to get people to email / rather than send a fax… General office waste is bad, I think so many little things people can do individually – which would make a difference if everyone did a little.

    I know it’s not easy / convenient being green – but we need to see how various things are effecting climate and other environmental impacts.

  2. Pradeep 5 December, 2008 at 6:19 pm #

    Doris,
    The report mentions that overallocation of permits (higher cap) resulted in the price of the allowances falling off. This is because individual nations/companies have an interest in reporting higher emissions than they are currently emitting when the policies are being made, so that they will have the extra permits during the implementation period. However, ppl think that the first stage of EU ETS trading resulted in a working carbon-trading system, that will hopefully work better in the next phase.

    It also says that “…however, leakage does not appear to have occurred, in part because covered entities did not purchase allowances but received them for free.” In contrast, Obama is tentatively proposing allowances to be auctioned. (The regional cap-and-trade schemes, RGGI for one, also auction some % of permits).

    The other point in the report is about the concept of additionality, it is somewhat cumbersome to prove that a CDM project would not have occurred without the carbon offsets, some people in industry I talked to think that this should be relaxed….Finally, the report also mentions verification of these offsets to ensure that carbon emission reductions are indeed happening.

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