Ce commentaire a été envoyé en exclusivité à EurActiv par Hubert Mandery, directeur général du Conseil européen de l'industrie chimique (CEFIC).
"Europe set itself the bold target of reducing total carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. Now, some voices are calling for an even bigger cut. Is this feasible or desirable? I believe the answer is 'no', and I'll tell you why.
The data show that global CO2 emissions reached an all-time high in 2010, while emissions in the European Union fell by a remarkable 8%.
That is an impressive performance by many of Europe's big energy users. It shows not only that Europe can play a strong part in tackling global warming, but has effective policies in this regard. However, many other states clearly lack both the determination and the policies to make a difference.
Europe, nevertheless, remains determined to lead the battle. On June, 17 EU governments will consider a European Commission Roadmap intended to take us to a competitive low-carbon economy by 2050. The European Parliament will also consider this roadmap when voting on a report that responds to the 2010 Communication calling for Europe to target reductions greater than 20% by 2020 and beyond.
Targeting greater CO2 reductions when other states are dragging their feet would be a lonely and bold move. But it would not necessarily be the right one, and might achieve perverse effects. Indeed, there are sound reasons why we should stick to what industry and policymakers previously agreed.
Carbon leakage and backdoor carbon from imports
Pushing for further reductions in emissions or setting aside emission rights (as suggested by certain climate groups) thereby tightening EU carbon markets, can actually do more harm than good for climate change. If the cost of production in Europe becomes too high as a result of EU carbon costs, some companies may shift production elsewhere, or simply source supplies from outside Europe.
Economic impact aside, that would create carbon leakage. Europe's carbon footprint will actually grow, because carbon emissions would come through the back door as imports from high-emission countries. Without a globally binding emissions reduction treaty, expect this to happen. In fact, it has already started.
Some businesses that generate little carbon can live with tighter targets. But some parts of the manufacturing sector certainly cannot. For the chemicals sector, we see a three-fold set of competitive pressures that have to be weighed before changing the emissions game-plan.
First, unlike utilities, whose local customers are locked into their suppliers by geography, much of the chemical industry faces global competition – and a growing share of chemicals output is already being produced in emerging markets.
Second, moving the goalposts would cost the chemicals sector a lot. As things stand, a potential worst case scenario is several billions of euros in direct and indirect costs to be incurred during 2013-2020, depending on the emissions price.
Third, EU chemicals firms, including small ones, already face energy supply and feedstock uncertainties, further compounded by the policy aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident and developments in the Middle East.
The chemicals industry already has every reason to cut its carbon emissions. It is a big energy user, accounting for 12% of EU energy demand and one third of its industrial energy use (energy and feedstock). Indeed, energy frequently exceeds 50% of a chemical company's production costs.
That cost pressure helps explain why the chemicals sector has an astonishing record of improving energy efficiency. During the past 20 years its energy use has remained stable whilst production, including pharmaceuticals, has risen by 69%. Enormous efficiency gains have often come from 'one-offs', step changes which cannot be repeated or extrapolated into the future - such as switching from coal to gas.
Tapping more innovation
Policymakers say that a higher emissions target will lead to more innovation and create more green jobs, but that will not happen in the current EU policy environment. It's true that the industry can supply innovative products that help users save energy. Europe's chemical industry can be relied upon to seek innovative solutions that will help tackle climate change. But innovative chemicals-based solutions can only be achieved through sensible long-term investment.
If billions of euros of industry cash is sucked away to lower its own emissions further, where will money for innovation come from? Regardless of where the targets are planted, the next great breakthroughs require additional money, not less. This can, and should be obtained from EU sources. After all, the Emissions Trading Scheme is like a tax on business, and there is no reason why, 50% or more of revenues should not be devoted to speeding innovation that curbs global warming.
The chemicals sector in the European Union will continue to play a vital role in mitigating global climate change. Climate change is a global challenge, however, and must be addressed by all countries and not only by EU member states. Setting unilaterally higher targets for 2020 would drive emissions to higher carbon intensive economies since consumption in the European Union is expected to rise.
Furthermore, it would deprive innovative manufacturing sectors from investing that money into research.
Innovation for more growth with less resources intake is a must which requires competitive and developing EU manufacturing sectors. And it requires a supportive policy framework that doesn’t put emphasis on renunciation but rather on growth and innovation."