The New York Times ran a landmark article today, “Money and Lobbyists Hurt European Efforts to Curb Gases,” about the failure of cap and trade in Europe. It’s required reading for anyone concerned about climate change policy in the United States and abroad. It opens with this:
The European Union started with a high-minded ecological goal: encouraging companies to cut their greenhouse gases by making them pay for each ton of carbon dioxide they emitted into the atmosphere.
But that plan unleashed a lobbying free-for-all that led politicians to dole out favors to various industries, undermining the environmental goals. Four years later, it is becoming clear that system has so far produced little noticeable benefit to the climate — but generated a multibillion-dollar windfall for some of the Continent’s biggest polluters.
As President-elect Barack Obama considers how to curb the gases that contribute to global warming, Europe’s struggle with the problem illustrates the momentous task ahead for the United States.
The piece comes after the GAO just released a highly critical study of the use of offsets in Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme and amidst the chaotic climate negotiations at Poznan, where several European nations are balking at strict emissions caps. It also comes only a few weeks after President-elect Barack Obama pledged his support for cap and trade at a major climate conference in California.