Europe and the United States have different policy options when it
comes to fighting global warming. Their clashing views on the
economic impact of climate change policies do not bode well for the
chances of any future global framework post-Kyoto.
The difference in climate change policies between the US and the
EU has focused on their acceptance/rejection of the 1997 Kyoto
Protocol. The irony is that this historical global agreement was
brought about mainly by pressure from the US, whose vice-president
Al Gore came up with the idea of market-based emissions trading to
tackle global warming. At that time, EU countries were very
sceptical and some even opposed the idea. The later US rejection
and the enthusiastic embrace by the EU of its emissions trading
scheme can therefore be interpreted as a major political
The decision of the Bush government to withdraw from the Kyoto
Protocol was based on studies about the economic
impact of its Kyoto commitments (the US being the largest
emitter of greenhouse gases), not on a direct questioning of the
science behind climate change.
The Global Climate Change Initiative,
which the Bush government launched in February 2002, aims to reduce
the greenhouse gas (GHG) ‘intensity’ of
the US economy (GHG emissions per unit of total GDP) by 18 per cent
over the period 2002-2012. The US government has claimed that this
is a similar effort to the commitments undertaken by Kyoto backers.
The policy measures in the US rely on voluntary
initiatives and technology and scientific
The government’s hesitation on climate change has led
to several initiatives in the US congress.
The most well-known is the McCain-Lieberman ‘Climate Stewardship
Act’ of 2003, which proposes a ‘cap and trade’ system for trading
GHG allowances as from 2010.
There also have been several strategies and action
plans at state level.
Businesses working in the US are divided
on the issue of climate change policies. Big companies like
ExxonMobil have questioned the human influence on climate change,
but others such as BP, Shell and Dupont have taken more progressive
positions, including a strong commitment to reduce their own
greenhouse gas emissions.
In Europe, EU business circles have
recently started expressing serious concerns about the impact of EU
climate change policies on the competitiveness of European